[Marxism] Dario Azzellini on Venezuelan developments
michael a. lebowitz
mlebowit at sfu.ca
Sun Oct 30 12:03:53 MDT 2016
What's up in Venezuela: Parlamentary coup? Chavista rank&file storm
Very complex and complicated situation in Venezuela. We hear the recall
referendum is called off? The National Assembly and its opposition majority
wat to impeach Maduro? On monday Chavista rank and file stormed the
Assembly in order to prevent the right wing majority to impeach President
Maduro. Huge mobilizations to overthrow Maduro and against took place
the past days. Friday a strike called by the opposition failed, not even
notoriously anti-government chamber of commerce supported the strike.
happening in Venezuela?
The National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela suspended t the next step
of the signature collection for the Recall Referendum against Maduro. At
least five regional courts had suspended the regional processes because
than a third of the signatures collected in the first round (where the
opposition had to reach 1% of the electorate in each state) were false. So
the next step of the referendum was called off and several opposition
were suspended from travelling to the exterior while the investigation for
fraud against them is happening. Let's analyze what is happening on the
and the political level.
Contrary to all complaints from right and left I think that the
stop the referendum can be justified in line with the law and constitution.
That it is legal does not mean it is politically convenient or right. I
in fact it is a political mistake to postpone or prevent the recall
referendum from happening. An "impeachment", that means that the parliament
induces a juridical process against the president and takes him/her out of
office (as it happened in Brazil, Paraguay and Honduras) does not exist in
Venezuela. Therefore all declarations by the opposition that are picked up
and repeated by the international media, are total nonsense and illegal.
If we look at the details I dare to express that the opposition has the
result she wanted and the government keeps stepping into traps the
is setting up.
Since the recall referendum signature collection started it seems likely
the opposition is not interested in having a recall referendum and taking
over the government. They cannot change the Oil prices and will not want to
be in a position to be blamed for the crisis and the incapacity to solve it
just 2 years before presidential elections. They want to win the next
Why did the opposition start the process of collecting the signatures so
that it was already very improbable to have it happening in 2016 (if the
recall referendum happens in 2017 the time to the next elections is so
that by law - if Maduro loses - the Vice President takes over until the
regular elections)? It could have started the recollection in January and
made sure the referendum can happen in 2016.
The opposition needed only 1% of the electorate's signatures in the first
round (some 120.000 signatures) but presented 2.5 million signatures. That
delayed the time to proof the signatures unnecessarily. Moreover more
third of the signatures were false. Since the recollection is based on the
elections registrations lists and is counterchecked with personal ID,
false signatures cannot be a human mistake but indicate an organized and
systematic fraud perpetrated by the referendum organizers. Beyond the fact
that only one out of the 3 big currents of the opposition party MUD
officially supported the referendum (the others did not even sign!),
the opposition did not support nor ever believe in the referendum.
Is this dilettantish behavior of the opposition making it as easy as
to stop the referendum because of legal reasons due to the deeply
competing opposition or is it intentional to create conditions under which
the Maduro government and the courts can argue that the referendum does not
fulfil the legal base... even if the government and courts are legally
it appears internationally as a "new attempt by Maduro to eliminate
democracy". But it is also politically wrong to postpone or stop the recall
referendum. The possibility of a recall referendum is an important and
innovative element of Venezuelan democracy. Chávez himself won a recall
referendum overwhelmingly. Maduro will for sure not achieve the same
but it is also not certain that he will lose even if he and the government
are highly unpopular.
Said that, it has to be underlined that the Maduro government has not been
convincing in solving the crisis, and less in communicating its own
to the rank&file. The answers so far have not been leftist, anticyclical,
rank & file oriented or participatory but rather a classical authoritarian
developmentalist and state oriented model trying to avoid cuts to social
expenses. It tries to lure investments into the country by opening
transnational corporations. There is therefore a huge mistrust and
of the Maduro government among the rank&file. But the opposition is
definetely no alternative and no leftist alternative has taken shape or
consolidated so far. A recall referendum would therefore not solve any
problems Venezuela has (from economic to leadership crisis and crisis of
The right orchestrated everything in order to perpetuate, similarly to
Brazil, Honduras, Paraguay... a "parliamentary coup". The connection
referendum is casual. The argument the right uses for the impeachement of
Maduro is that he did neglect the country because he travelled to Saudi
Arabia and Qatar.
It is therefore good and understandable that the rank & file mobilized and
occupied the National Assembly in order to avoid a situation that from the
outside would have looked as Dilma's impeachment in Brazil. Videos and
pictures form the National Assembly show that it weren't "Chavista
"armed colectivos responding to the government" that stormed the National
Assembly, but simple people from the poorest neighborhoods, especially many
women over 50 years of age. During the coming mobilizations many people
become active that are very critical or opposed to Maduro and his
but definitely do not want the right to be back in power. That will
not solve the crisis in Venezuela, neither will the Maduro government (at
least not in a socialist and participatory way). If the right fails with
ambitions to provoke a system colaps in Venezuela, the most urging question
will be if the rank & file in Venezuela can now and in the future also
mobilize for a change of politics of the government.
Critical Sociology published my article on "Labour as a Commons"! and Latin
American Perspectives published my article "Class Struggle in the
Process Workers’ Control and Workers’ Councils"!!! (see 2)
My new book on Venezuela "Communes and Workers' Control in Venezuela.
Building 21st Century Socialism from Below" has been published by Brill! It
is already available with the publisher. In 2017 it will be published at a
much cheaper price by Haymarket as paperback (see 1).
The book covers the time between 1998 and 2014. Nevertheless, even in the
midth of the multiple crisis Venezuela is suffering, which is fostered
low oil prices, the violence of the opposition, the economic war waged by
private entrepreneurs, political and economic attacks by the US, corruption
and missing counter measures by the government... the positive examples of
how to overcome the crisis and the capitalist rentist and extracitvist
come from the communes and the initiatives in favor of workers control.
All the best,
1. New Books (English):
Dario Azzellini: Communes and Workers' Control in Venezuela. "OUT NOW"
Building 21st Century Socialism from Below. Brill. Novermber 2016.
In Communes and Workers' Control in Venezuela: Building 21st Century
Socialism from Below, Dario Azzellini offers an account of the Bolivarian
Revolution from below. While authors on Venezuela commonly concentrate on
former president Hugo Chávez and government politics, this book shows how
workers, peasants and the poor in urban communities engage in building 21st
century socialism through popular movements, communal councils, communes
fighting for workers' control. In a relationship of cooperation and
with the state, social transformation is approached on 'two tracks', from
below and from above. Azzellini’s fascinating account stands out because of
the extensive empirical examples and original voices from movements,
councils, communes and workers.
Out in now with Brill and in 2017 as paperback with Haymarket.
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Michael A. Lebowitz
Simon Fraser University
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