Very sober perspective on Venezuela. The real question is: whither the Bolivarian revolution? Right now the Chavista regime is caught between reform and revolution, capitalism and socialism. Will the right-wing and ruling classes be able to exploit the current economic problems and political uncertainty in order to turn back the progressive gains of Chavismo; or will the working classes respond by rising up and independently forcing the ‘revolutionary process’ to proceed well beyond that which the present government is either willing or able to engage in?
Either the large capitalists must be finally and decisively taken over and placed under the control of worker-consumer cooperatives — thus solving the problem of shortages and industrial stand-still, or the capitalists will continue to exercise their vast power in collaboration with Western interests until a situation of utter crisis prevails and they (or their right-wing political representatives) can step into the breach.
Shortages, inflation and corruption are fueling frustrations with the government in Venezuela—and the hopes of the right.
Many on the left are convinced that the strategy they [the right-wing] are pursuing is the Media Luna option. The wealthy eastern states of Eastern Bolivia, the so-called Media Luna or Half Moon, attempted a strategy of secession a few years ago to undermine the government of Evo Morales.
They, too, mobilized around racism and pursued strategies of civil disorder, advised in that case by the U.S. ambassador at the time. The strategy failed, but at a cost. Had it succeeded, Bolivia would have been plunged into a civil war between a largely white Media Luna and an indigenous Highland Bolivia. A similar logic may be at work in Venezuela; all the leaders of the right-wing parties are white.
… [Yet] the Chavista process is run from above by a bureaucracy that is building a state capitalist project in the name of revolution. The anti-imperialist rhetoric is reserved for Washington. The Chinese and the Russians, whose purposes in investing in Venezuela have nothing to do with socialism and a great deal to do with profit, are the new partners in the Venezuelan economy.
Chinese money is funding the house-building program, for example. Quite clearly neither of these allies is acting out of proletarian solidarity, and there is no reason why a private sector sharing government with the bureaucracy should have any difficulties with them. Business, after all, is business.
… There is an overwhelming feeling in Venezuela, shared by many, of aimlessness, of decisions made on the spur of the moment. Thus, for example, the creation of new agencies to deal with the allocation of foreign currency has produced more confusion and a continuing outflow of dollars.
The reason for that becomes clear on a stroll around the city. The Venezuelan production system is at a standstill, and the gap has been filled by a rising tide of imports, paid for in dollars. The exchange rate reflects the fact that the Bolívar has nothing to sustain it—no production and shrinking reserves.
Venezuela is even importing oil in order to fulfill its international obligations. Yet it was oil revenues that were to fund and sustain the often very exciting social programs that did, undoubtedly, transform the lives of Venezuela’s poor in the early part of Chávez’s government. Those programs are now failing because oil finances are shrinking, or at least being diverted to sustain other areas of the national economy.
The result is the very real day-to-day difficulties. The fact that the opposition complains about shortages and price inflation that affect it less than the majority of the population does not detract from the realities.
… the underlying frustrations and discontents that affect every sector of the society, and not just the middle class, are the consequences of shortages, inflation and centrally about corruption. There is a widely accepted figure that $2 billion has “disappeared” over the last year or so. And it is well known that speculation and black marketeering is common within both the private and the public sector.
… Whatever the immediate future, these are the only forces that will carry the revolution forward. That is what people are proclaiming when they wear the fashionable caps bearing Chávez’s eyes, looking out into the future.
The alternative is one they already know, because the people leading the opposition have demonstrated where they want to take Venezuela—back to the poverty, the inequality, the corruption and the violence of the past. This was what they offered when they last attempted to seize power, and that is still the vision that drives them.
The issue is: What are the leaders of the Chavista process offering? There have been campaigns against corruption, speculation and violence in the past, which have produced very few results; the few government members who took their role seriously and took on the speculators were soon removed. It is a moment to address, without rhetoric, the real problems that the majority of Venezuelans are facing, their causes and radical solutions.
As the commentary around the recent deaths of Nelson Mandela, Amiri Baraka and Pete Seeger made abundantly clear, most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is arrant nonsense. This is not surprising, given our country’s history of Red Scares designed to impress that anti-capitalism is tantamount to treason. In 2014, though, we are too far removed from the Cold War-era threat of thermonuclear annihilation to continue without taking stock of the hype we’ve been made.
… Capitalists are compelled to support oppressive regimes and wreck the planet, as a matter of business, even as they protest good personal intentions.
And that’s just the principle of the system. The US’s particular brand of capitalism required exterminating a continent’s worth of indigenous people and enslaving millions of kidnapped Africans. And all the capitalist industry was only possible because white women, considered the property of their fathers and husbands, were performing the invisible tasks of child-rearing and housework, without remuneration. Three cheers for free exchange.
The following article is a chapter from ISR editor Paul D’Amato’s forthcoming new edition of The Meaning of Marxism. It is a survey of the history of the working-class movement and the approach of Marx, and Marxists after Marx (including Lenin and the Bolsheviks), toward the question of organization and political parties. Much of the current discussions of party and of class are marred by a lack of historical perspective and experience from which to draw. Often, what are in fact old arguments are smuggled in as “new” revelations about the future of movements and social struggle. Hence, a sense of the history of the working class, socialist, and Marxist tradition on the question of organization should be an essential feature of this discussion. Therefore, though this article does not touch directly on the current discussions and debates, it is hoped that it can provide a backdrop for a better understanding of the Marxist case for the revolutionary party.
|—||Karl Marx on “free trade”, 1848|
that’s a bit more complicated. i think it’s GOOD in so far as it is an attempt at reforming capitalism and overcoming the most oppressive features of a free-market economy. however, it can only go so far within the limits of capitalist property relations, and oftentimes even ends up becoming awfully corrupted in its attempt to coexist with said relations.
if you are up for listening to a brief audio clip on the subject, here are a couple presentations that my friend Jonah Birch has given recently. i generally agree with his analysis of the past, present, and future of social democracy.
ISR #92 is on the way!
Paul D’Amato, “Marx, Lenin, and Luxemburg: Party,
organization, and revolution”
Megan Behrent, “The personal and the political: Literature and feminism”
Benoít Renaud, “A new party in Canada”
Samuel Farber, “Reflections on ‘prefigurative politics’”
Charlie Post, “The debate on Marxism and history: What’s at stake?”
Pranav Jani reviews Vivek Chibber’s “Postcolonial Theory and
the Specter of Capital”
Ashley Smith reviews Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin’s “The Making of Global Capitalism”
Ian Angus reviews Max Koch’s “Capitalism and Climate Change” and Daniel Tanuro’s “Green Capitalism”
Sherry Wolf reviews Henry A. Giroux’s “Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education”
Leia Petty reviews Daniel Bergner’s “What Do Women Want?”
Bridget Broderick reviews Kim E. Nielsen’s “A Disability History of the United States”
I refuse to refer to the former USSR or China as “communist” without the qualifying quotation marks, just as vehemently as I refuse to refer to the U.S. as “democratic” without the same. Otherwise, both of those precious words are rendered completely meaningless.
Among other things, Ukraine proves that the “Cold War” isn’t over, in the sense that it was never about the struggle between “democracy” and “communism”, but rather about the imperialist competition between the two powers [U.S. and U.S.S.R.] which had emerged as the preeminent global forces within the new order established at the end of WWII.
In that sense, the struggle between Russia and the U.S. over control of strategic world positioning, resources, economic zones, and political alliances, is the function of the very same global capitalist system — i.e., a world economy based on national competition between various exploitative ruling classes — which has existed for the last 300 years, and, yes, includes the period between 1945 to 1989 and 1989 to the present.
Ever since before WWI, Eastern Europe and the Caucuses were the site of constant wrangling between the various capitalist powers of Europe and increasingly the U.S., with the independent will of the Eastern European peoples constantly trampled underfoot. This also served as the immediate precipitating factors of both of the World Wars.
The simple fact is that for all the changes that have taken place in the world since the turn of the 19th century, the overarching system remains the same. And so it will in perpetuity as long as we live on a planet riven by a few powerful nations, seeking to assert their dominance over less powerful nations, in a mutual war of all against all in pursuit of wealth and control.
The names of the prevailing major powers may change from century to century, as one empire supplants another (now Spain, now Britain, now the U.S., etc.); but until we have fought for and attained a world premised upon the genuine collective and democratic cooperation of all peoples everywhere — unburdened by the profit motive, repressive state apparatuses, national chauvinism, vast inequality, and market competition — we will never see the lasting emancipation of the human species, let alone an isolated ethnic or national portion of the species.
omg, i love the fact that the villain in The Lego Movie is called “Lord Business”, an evil businessman who owns the the government and the monopoly corporation which produces everything in society from dairy products to voting machines, and controls a brutal police force to repress the population and maintain his rule. [in other words, an almost perfect allegory for our actual society].
even with an ending that veers more in the direction of reform, rather than revolution, it was cool to see the masses of ordinary LEGO citizens rise up together in rebellion against Lord Business’ tyranny, which forced him to undergo a change of heart in the end …
Anyone have any recommendations for a good book or article on Tito & Yugoslavia? I’m particularly interested in the period leading up to, during, and through the end of WWII.
For anyone in NYC — you should consider checking this out. A discussion of one of the groundbreaking works by the late Marta Russell on disability, capitalism, and oppression.
See an obituary for Marta at http://socialistworker.org/2014/01/03/committed-to-a-caring-society
Please join us on Tuesday, February 18 for a group discussion of “Capitalism and Disability,” by Marta Russell and Ravi Malhotra. This event is organized with Park McArthur on the occasion of Ramps, her show at Essex Street, which serves partly as an ode to the recently deceased Russell. Russell and Malhotra’s essay, rooted in historical materialism, asks how disability helps us fundamentally rethink the politics of labor, space, and future. Through discussion, we hope to think about the tactics used by the neoliberal state to define and control disability and the consequences on people’s lives and geographies of access. Moderated by Park McArthur, Alex Fleming, and Constantina Zavitsanos.
The event is free and open to the public but space is limited. To RSVP, please go to:
Studio-X NYC is wheelchair accessible; please contact us regarding any other access needs.
Link to the text:
Finding out that my coworker of 2 years is secretly a socialist = awesome. Our conversation went something like this:
We start talking about our jobs [we work in health care] and how we think the workplace could be organized much better — both for the patients and for ourselves, the workers.
Then we start talking about the fact that our jobs are unionized and how much better that makes things. Then we talk about the health care system in general, and how messed up it is. Then Wal-Mart and the recent moves by workers there to unionize. Then about economic inequality in this country overall and how that needs to change.
It was at this point that he says something like, “But it’s not like i’m talking about socialism or anything.” I reply, “Actually, I think this country could use more socialism.” Him: “Oh yeah, actually, me too! I mean, if you actually look at the definition of communism, it looks great.”
Of course, he added, that “Communism never seems to work out in practice, though.”
Alas, that remains a conversation for a later date, but at least we had a good start!