Dangers from a ‘mixed’ economy that brought down Sandinista Revolution exist for Venezuela

A revolution meant to advance the material conditions of large numbers of previously disenfranchised people is necessarily larger than one individual. That is true even when the individual who embodies the revolution is a charismatic leader such as Hugo Chávez.

There is no denying that the death of President Chávez is a setback for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. That revolution is a process — it is perhaps more akin to a steady evolution than a revolution — and will go forward if Venezuelans continue to see the process as beneficial to them. That was true throughout the 14-year reign of President Chávez and is true whether or not he occupies the presidential palace.

Ultimately, the survival of the Bolivarian Revolution rests on two factors: Effecting a change in economic relations and becoming a constituent component of a larger bloc that effects a similar change in economic relations. Simply put, the Bolivarian Revolution has taken political power away from Venezuela’s capitalist elite but largely has left economic power in the hands of that elite. As Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution of 1979 to 1991 demonstrated, leaving economic power in the hands of a capitalist elite enables that elite to destabilize a revolution.

That represents a larger threat to the future prosperity of Venezuelans than the many-sided struggles going on within the country’s institutions, including disagreements inside unions, government departments and social organizations. The process of the Bolivarian Revolution is hardly straightforward, with some interests, such as union leaderships, that should be behind the socialization of production instead opposed. President Chávez often acted as an arbiter or a court of last resort, able to settle disputes due to his personal authority.

No other person possesses the charisma to arbitrate in such a manner; nonetheless, that personal authority — based on the late president’s popularity and repeated electoral victories — was invoked only in extraordinary circumstances. Such disputes will remain solvable, but may require more negotiation and grassroots struggle. The much larger question of who owns, controls and/or manages production and distribution is what will be decisive, and no one person, no matter how charismatic, can be decisive. This is a social question.

Sandinistas left economic power in hands of capitalists

A generation ago, another Latin American experiment held the world’s attention. The Sandinista Revolution, like the Bolivarian, tended to be seen through ideological prisms. The same hyperventilating language — “dictatorship” “communist” “repressive” — was used to describe Nicaragua during the Sandinista era. It was not a perfect government — is anything of human creation perfect? — but real progress was made despite the many mistakes that are inevitable when people previously blocked from any meaningful participation in their society suddenly find themselves in government.

The Sandinistas never declared that they would implement a socialist economy, and didn’t. For those who cared to pay attention, the Sandinista leadership repeatedly said their goal was a mixed economy. The Nicaraguan economy came to include large enterprises owned by the government; commonly owned collectives; marketing collectives composed of individual privately owned small farms; small-scale private businesses and independent farms; and private big-business manufacturing and agricultural operations left intact from before the revolution.

The property of the Somoza family, which came to personally own large portions of the Nicaraguan economy during its decades-long dictatorship, was confiscated by the Sandinistas following the revolution. Doing so was not necessarily opposed by Nicaragua’s capitalists, who were disgusted with the Somoza dictators because they had forced their way into many business sectors, muscling out capitalists when they saw an opportunity. Because of that, many business leaders came to oppose the dictatorship however much they applauded its ruthless, frequently deadly, suppression of labor.

The last dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, ordered factories owned by capitalists opposed to him bombed, looted the treasury, laid waste to the economy and ultimately killed 50,000 in his bid to retain power. After the Revolution, the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard and the United States government, which had been the Somoza dynasty’s protector, created the terrorist groups known as the “Contras” that inflicted huge damage. The Contras specifically targeted public infrastructure and cooperative enterprises for destruction.

Nicaragua’s capitalists had expected to assume political leadership after the revolution, and when they discovered that the people and organizations that had carried out the revolution and had suffered the most repression would have the majority of political power, they swiftly began to undermine it. Although credit was now available for the first time for small farmers, most loans went to the country’s capitalists, who instead of using the capital for investment, spirited the money to overseas banks and began stripping their factories of assets. A few factories where this took place were nationalized, but the legal process to do so was lengthy and a factory owner determined to de-capitalize an enterprise could do so before the legal system could act.

The contradictions of a mixed economy

Strange as it may appear, the Sandinistas, more than once, imposed austerity on their own country, reducing living standards for working people while continuing to provide subsidies for capitalists. The Sandinistas had sought to raise living standards for working people in the cities and the countryside, provided large subsidies to the capitalists and were forced to fund an expensive military effort to defend the country. These factors were further aggravated by the U.S. embargo, with the resulting shortages fueling inflation. The only way to support all these policies simultaneously was to print more money, which touched off more inflation.

To combat inflation, the government implemented an austerity program in 1985 designed to “rationalize” these competing interests by reducing consumer consumption through reductions in the earning power of wages while increasing subsidies for capitalists and small farmers to induce more production. But since the capitalists controlled a much bigger share of the economy than did small farmers, the result was more subsidies for the already wealthy. Thus, “austerity” meant austerity only for working people — their reduced living standards would pay for the government money that would be channeled into capitalists’ pockets.

Nonetheless, the capitalists continued to refuse to invest, pocketing the money instead. Those local capitalists had strong links with capitalists in the United States and in other advanced capitalist countries, creating a web of interests. Under the impact of the intense military pressure of the Contras and the U.S.-imposed economic blockade, Nicaragua’s mass-participation social groups lost their grassroots characteristics and became more vertical organizations with imposed leaderships; progress on social issues, such as combating discrimination against women, halted because so much effort had to be put into basic defense.

In 1988, the Sandinistas imposed another round of austerity, a program similar to those demanded by the International Monetary Fund, although in this case without the often dubious benefits of the loans nor the debt burden. Speculators and smugglers had taken advantage of price imbalances by buying products cheaply in Nicaragua and selling them for more in foreign markets and, internally, by diverting subsidized food from intended markets and instead selling it at inflated prices, earning themselves windfall profits while increasing costs to consumers.

The country was also hurt by international currency speculators, who drove down the exchange-rate value of its currency, forcing costly devaluations. Wages were reduced in these austerity programs, to the applause of Nicaragua’s capitalists.

A strong contrast to the Sandinistas’ intentions, this was the result of maintaining a “mixed” economy in which economic power was left in the hands of capitalists. Although capitalists did not possess formal political power, political leaders were forced (by the “market”) to implement policies benefiting capitalists and hurting working people in agriculture and industry.

Social successes during the Chávez era

History does not repeat itself neatly, and the Venezuela of the 2010s is a different place than the Nicaragua of the 1980s. With no equivalent of the Contras and a high-priced commodity (oil) that Nicaragua does not have, the Bolivarian Revolution is on firmer ground. Venezuela also has a far larger population, making it is a much less attractive target for armed interventions. Nonetheless, its stated goal of empowering working people on a road to “21st century socialism” is an example that capitalists, and their governments, around the world would like to stamp out.

Venezuela is a country not without problems, although problems such as high crime rates and inflation were part of the Venezuelan fabric well before President Chávez took office. It is legitimate to argue that these problems have not been sufficiently tackled; it is unfair to insinuate that these are new problems caused by the Bolivarian Revolution as the corporate media repeatedly does. There have been many successes, among them these reported by the Center for Economic Policy and Research:

  • Annual economic growth of 3.2 percent during the Chávez administration (4.3 percent since 2004, after the government asserted control over the state oil company, PDVSA) as opposed to 1.4 percent annual growth in the 13 years preceding President Chávez.
  • Inflation, although high, is less than half of what it was in 1996, two years before President Chávez took office.
  • The unemployment rate is now half of what it was during the former PDVSA management’s lockout in 2003 and is far below what it was when President Chávez took office.
  • The rate of poverty has been halved, and the rate of extreme poverty reduced by three-quarters.
  • The number of higher-education graduates has tripled.
  • The number of Venezuelans receiving a pension has quadrupled.

And none other than the International Monetary Fund reports that Venezuela has the lowest level of inequality in the Latin America/Caribbean region, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Venezuela has also made the greatest improvement since 2005 in this widely used metric of any country in its region, at a time when inequality rose in many countries throughout the world.

As I have previously written, although nationalization of the state oil company receives most of the attention, the bedrock of the revolution are the formations of small cooperatives in a variety of industries; the creation of “social production companies” in which existing enterprises were to create co-management structures and create chains of supply with cooperatives; shuttered enterprises that are expropriated by the workers who re-start production; and experiments in “co-management” with workers’ participation conducted in large state-owned resource enterprises.

The transformation of Venezuela’s industry is not only resisted by capitalists, but faces resistance from within government bureaucracies and even inside the Bolivarian movement itself. Resistance from unions, for example, has contributed to setbacks in creating workers’ co-management of the large state-owned resource enterprises.

‘Endogenous development’ in response to sabotage

The Bolivarian process took a step forward in the wake of the PDVSA lockout carried out by the revolution’s opponents, which followed the failure of their 2002 coup against President Chávez. A 2006 Dollars & Sense article written by Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone noted that the need for internal development was a lesson learned from the lockout and coup:

“Cooperatives also advance the Chávez administration’s broader goal of ‘endogenous development.’ Foreign direct investment continues in Venezuela, but the government aims to avoid relying on inflows from abroad, which open a country to capitalism’s usual blackmail. Endogenous development means ‘to be capable of producing the seed that we sow, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, the goods and services that we need, breaking the economic, cultural and technological dependence that has halted our development, starting with ourselves.’ To these ends, co-ops are ideal tools. Co-ops anchor development in Venezuela: under the control of local worker-owners, they don’t pose a threat of capital flight as capitalist firms do.

The need for endogenous development came home to Venezuelans during the 2002[-2003 management] oil strike carried out by Chávez’s political opponents. Major distributors of the country’s mostly imported food also supported the strike, halting food deliveries and exposing a gaping vulnerability. In response, the government started its own parallel supermarket chain. In just three years, Mercal had 14,000 points of sale, almost all in poor neighborhoods, selling staples at discounts of 20% to 50%. It is now the nation’s largest supermarket chain and its second largest enterprise overall. The Mercal stores attract shoppers of all political stripes thanks to their low prices and high-quality merchandise. To promote ‘food sovereignty,’ Mercal has increased its proportion of domestic suppliers to over 40%, giving priority to co-ops when possible.”

A new stress on workers’ control of industrial enterprises was one of the responses to the capitalists’ attempts to sabotage the economy during and after the PDVSA lockout, when management halted oil production. Since 2005, enterprises in a range of industries have come under various forms of workers’ control. This has not been a straightforward process. According to analyst Ewan Robertson, who wrote in August 2012:

“The many achievements by workers in taking over and collectively running individual factories, and in driving forward a project of worker control for the state owned heavy industries in [the eastern region of] Guayana, have generated a backlash, not only among the US-backed conservative political opposition, transnational companies and private bosses, but also among a reactionary and bureaucratic faction within the Bolivarian revolution itself.

This is because progress made by workers threatens those who only support Chavez for personal gain and political opportunism, and see their special privileges or vested interests threatened by worker control: there is little need for state managers or union bureaucrats if workers eliminate hierarchies and operate factories themselves in a participatory democratic manner. It also undermines those who hold a more restrictive view of what socialism is and argue that workers are ‘not ready’ to operate factories themselves. Indeed, there are those in the government that hold socialism to be little more than state ownership of industry and central planning from above, with little participation from workers.”

Socialism is the full and free democratic participation of everybody in all spheres of life. In the workplace, that means a concrete and genuine workers’ control whereby all workers have a say in their enterprise’s decision-making, whether the enterprise is fully or partially owned by a government or fully owned by the workers themselves in a cooperative. Understanding the concept of socialism is one part of ongoing Venezuelan struggles. Another part is that about 70 percent of the country’s economy remains in private hands, according to the country’s central bank.

That means that capitalists still have the power to disrupt the economy and undermine the Bolivarian process. Venezuela’s continuing over-dependence on oil exports is another potential source of destabilization. Venezuela remains tied to the logic of capitalism and, no matter how much progress it makes in implementing its “21st century socialism,” it is too small to be a self-contained island of socialism in a vast turbulent sea of capitalism. No country on Earth can be self-sufficient, not even a country with as much exportable mineral wealth as Venezuela.

The Bolivarian Revolution can only advance and stabilize itself as part of a large regional bloc, large enough to withstand the economic, financial, political and military attacks of capitalist powers. But as of today, the furthest description that could be given to the Venezuelan economy is that it is a “mixed” economy. Capitalists hostile to the revolution still retain considerable ability to undermine it. The history of the Sandinista Revolution demonstrates what happens to a mixed economy. History has also demonstrated that an economy held in state hands has its own serious weaknesses.

Venezuela’s stress on workers’ control and cooperative enterprises demonstrates that the latter lesson has been learned; cooperation is at the center of the country’s “21st century socialism.” But there is also the lesson provided by the Sandinistas — that experience, too, should not be forgotten.


22 comments on “Dangers from a ‘mixed’ economy that brought down Sandinista Revolution exist for Venezuela

  1. Alcuin says:

    A couple of interesting items about cooperatives, one a general article and the other about Venezuela:

    Worker’s Control

    Venezuelan Analysis

    I thought the article from Venezuelan Analysis was most interesting – if I have the time, I’ll follow up on some of the ideas contained in it.

    • I hope you can find the time. I will give these articles a read as well. The latter is from the news site Venezuelanalysis, which I recommend to readers who wish to keep up with news and events in Venezuela.

    • Alcuin says:

      Here’s an article from Venezuelan Analysis that illustrates your points about how the Bolivarian Revolution faces opposition from bureaucracies, unions, and state-owned enterprises. The media circus surrounding the death of Chavez isn’t sufficiently informative to bring these issues to the attention of the general public. To find out the real story about cooperatives in Venezuela requires some digging. It doesn’t help that American Leftists are falling all over themselves with praise for Chavez’ accomplishments while remaining isolated and ineffective in this country. The Bolivarian Revolution will only be successful if the people involved in it remain committed to its goals. I never was much impressed with vanguardism …

      • A very interesting article about the struggles and contradictions. A key passage in the article you linked to states:

        “However, Venezuela’s recovered factories, despite having the support of the Chavez government, are in essence faced with the same problem of the recovered factories in Argentina: how to survive in a sea of capitalist economic relations, how to ensure supply of raw materials, how to ensure a buyer for the finished product. Inveval is suffering from both of these problems.”

        Among the problems the article discussed is that PDVSA refused to honor obligations to buy valves from Inveval, the company producing them, despite both being state companies. PDVSA management is still acting in a capitalist manner, and I have no reason to disbelieve the valve-company worker who said, “There are definitely sectors of PDVSA that are opposed to workers control and to the example of Inveval.” Individual enterprises can operate internally as cooperatives, but there still must be levels of cooperation between the cooperatives, otherwise market relations dictate commercial behavior.

        The struggle to create an economy beyond capitalism will not be short or easy.

  2. Joel Meyers says:

    Very interesting angle, and thoughtful to an extent not often found in today’s more sloganeering styles of discourse.

    What both the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan revolutions have in common is that both tried to combine proto-socialist development with the forms of a democratic republic. The Sandinistas actually ceded formal political power after losing political power, but were able to arrange their maintenance of control over the military and to a certain degree of the police and the courts, thus preventing a bloodbath in revenge for the revolution which is the typical historic experience with counterrevolutions. Also, they could not be credibly accused and disgraced by human rights violations and crimes against humanity, as has happened elsewhere, albeit it on a wildly trumped up basis by even bigger human rights violators.

    One difference between Nicaragua and Venezuela was the U.S. proxy invasion through terrorist warfare by the Contras and English-speaking secessionists on the Atlantic Coast, with relatively inexhaustible material support from USA-CIA, both with money and military and political supervision with Special Forces experience, and the cooptation of Honduras as a priveleged sanctuary.

    Some guerrilla warfare had been instigated against Venezuela, with Colombian government and fascist paramilitary forces, but not to a similar extent.

    Also, under Hugo Chavez, with his extensive network, some of it on a personal basis, among the military, had an established and experienced military support, particularly after the military opposition exposed itself due to the reversed attempted coup. But to understate the matter, the military could turn out to be the most dangerous source of counterrevution, and here the analogy is not Nicaragua but Chile under Allende’s Unidad Popular.

    The catastrophe in Chile resulted largely from a failure to build organized support among the rank-and-file soldiers for the popular and progressive forces, and a failure to arm, train, drill and ready the popular forces for resistance, in case of military counterrevolution..

    My own leanings are in the direction of confiscating all private property in the means of production and sustenance, including housing. But that is not always immediately practical everywhere under every set of circumstances. The social base of the Contras inside Nicaragua were the northern, smallholding farmers, who feared that their lands would be confiscated, since the larger haciendas and latifundias, mostly owned by the Somoza family and its cronies, were of necessity statified or collectivized by their workers with state support.

    But, even more generally, benefits can be reaped from some private sector, provided that it is regulated in its labor conditions and environmental impact, and limited from becoming too powerful and kept on the political margin through the mobilization of mass vigilance. Granted, this may also not be possible under any and all circumstances, and security emergencies and exigencies may preclude such a balance, even for considerable durations.

    In Venezuela, while I am not familiar with the internal conditions and consciousness, it may be that any move to broader confiscations of small property could boomerang as a provocation thajt could jeopardize the immediate survival of the gains of the overwhelming working class and poor majority, and the government itself which has empowered them.

    • Alcuin says:

      Systemic Disorder is one of the few political blogs that I follow, largely because of its thoughtful approach to issues. There are thousands of blogs that engage in “sloganeering styles of discourse” but not many that actually engage the minds of their readers.

      Understanding Chávez’ Bolivarian Revolution requires some thinking and I don’t claim to understand it, either. But reading articles like the one I linked to in Jacobin magazine helps. The question I would direct to you, Joel, is this: who is going to do the confiscation of all private property? You go on to say that “benefits can be reaped from some private sector, provided that it is regulated in its labor conditions …” If all private property is confiscated, isn’t that the end of the private sector? The sentence after the one I quoted in my comment is illuminating: “Acknowledging this paradox is key to a sober understanding of radical populism and its contradictions.”

      Food for thought that isn’t much considered on the “sloganeering” blogs.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Joel, as always. Your point about the Allende government’s failure to build support within the military and its failure to nurture “popular forces for resistance” are important points. In an interesting memoir by Ariel Dorfman, Heading South, Looking North, he wrote about how he and a group of his comrades were fumbling around with personal firearms while the counter-revolution was already preparing with heavy weaponry, and, following one of these self-training sessions, encountering a group of striking truck drivers.

      The CIA had paid the truck drivers more money to go on strike than they were making while driving, bringing the Chilean economy to a halt. Dorfman writes about he and his group accidentally walking into an area where the drivers had gathered. On seeing Dorfman and his group, one of the drivers took out his wallet and flashed a large wad of U.S. currency, whereupon the other drivers did the same. Dorfman wrote how he then knew how screwed he and his country were. In Venezuela, the equivalent of this, the bosses’ lockout at PDVSA and other actions backing the lockout, failed, because Venezuelans were able to see through it.

      Tragic as the outcome of Chile’s experiment was, at least some lessons from it have been learned.

    • Erik Mar says:

      “The social base of the Contras inside Nicaragua were the northern, smallholding farmers, who feared that their lands would be confiscated…” I lived in the Matagalpa region both during and immediately after the 80s, and I think the picture is a little more complicated than that. First of all, it is true that much of the Contra social base was composed of campesinos, both landowning and not. However, from what I’ve been told both by ex contra themselves and by FSLN supporters in the rural areas is that a) collectivization was feasible only in limited areas, due to the low population density, geography, infrastructure distribution, etc. b) for large time periods, the government, through MICOIN, would intercept and forcibly purchase agricultural products headed towards the cities at lower than market prices, so as to subsidize and maintain its urban support base. This made it very difficult, if not in some cases impossible, for campesinos, whether independent, or part of anything other than the CAS type cooperatives, to maintain themselves, credit or no credit. c) of course, the war, with its drain on labor power and diversion of resources towards defense, de-incentivized joining a cooperative, especially since they were specifically targeted by the Contra. So, historical patterns of uneven development, along with the rural-urban divide, also played key roles in restricting the degree of collectivization while simultaneously increasing economic and other pressures on non-collectivized agricultural producers.

  3. Alcuin says:

    Here is a most interesting article from Dissent magazine, critiquing the Chavez era. It was written by Bhaskar Sunkara, who is the editor of Jacobin magazine.

    One sample sentence that should entice anyone reading this comment to click on the link:

    “They [community councils] are, as Nikolas Kozloff puts it, at once ‘anti-democratic, creating a kind of vertical dependency around the cult figure of Chávez’ and a real terrain of democratic deliberation.”

  4. Alcuin says:

    For another perspective, I found the article, A Future Without Chávez? an interesting read. In it, there is a reference to a study done by PRIVEN (Prout Research Institute of Venezuela) that provides some interesting statistics about both the types of cooperatives, their numbers, and the reasons for their success or failure.

    I was not previously aware of PROUT, an acronym which stands for Progressive Utilization Theory. It is a social and economic theory that was developed in India in 1959 by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. From what little I know of it, it seems as though Michael Albert, the founder of Participatory Economics, was influenced by it. For learn more about progressive utilization theory, go to the PROUT website.

  5. Alcuin says:

    One last contribution: We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution.

    The book will be released in May, but this link is to the introduction, which will give you an idea of what the book is about. The Bolivarian Revolution created Chávez; Chávez did not create the Bolvarian Revolution.

    • A variety of perspectives from the above three sources to which Alcuin has provided links. I’ll give my thoughts on each, briefly.

      First up, the Dissent article, in my opinion, was unduly harsh. The author dwells on the high failure rate of Venezuelan cooperatives. A key passage from it states:

      “Out of the more than 220,000 registered cooperatives, only 70,000 are active—a failure rate of 70 percent. The ones that have survived, far from serving as vehicles of worker empowerment, have in some respects institutionalized underground-economy work without improving conditions. Since they are supposedly equal ‘partners’ in a firm, groups of cooperative members who feel exploited within their workplace cannot engage in industrial action. This status as ‘self-employed associates’ rather than ‘workers’ also means they are exempt from national labor laws governing basic protections such as minimum wage requirements. These features are attractive to large capitalist firms that outsource work to cooperatives—many of them staffed by unemployed ex-union members—in order to minimize their reliance on combative permanent workers.”

      I don’t know enough to be able to contest effectively this picture, but I will say it is distinctly more disapproving than other reports I read from people analyzing the cooperative movement with a willingness to examine the contradictions and disappointments of the movement with discerning eyes. The author unfortunately did not include any evidence for his stark portrayal. The author also makes no attempt at analyzing the capitalist structures in place, internal and external, and seems not have even considered the powerful economic forces that buffet Venezuela. If the picture painted here is true then this would be a situation that needs rapid improvement. Or is this author painting an unduly dark picture due to a critical attitude?

      Speaking generally, cooperative workers must have full legal protections in labor law and cooperatives must be subject to legal standards. It would be no contradiction for cooperative workers to also be union members, for example, which could provide an additional layer of protection. Cooperative workers are owners and workers at the same time, and there are contradictions within that duality. Structures that allow the full expression of this duality would avoid situations such as those depicted in the quote above from arising.

      The second, published in fall 2011, also focused on the high failure rate of coops without any attempt at analysis. This author also believed there is a high possibility of the Bolivarian movement fracturing if Chávez dies. So far, we so no sign of that, and I might note that this author also saw a strong possibility of Chávez losing the 2012 election. None of us can exclude the possibility of a fracturing at some point in the future, but if the movement continues to have majority support, it will continue to develop. And a fracturing is not necessary a bad thing; it is possible for a movement to split on the best methodologies to go forward with each continuing to believe in, and committed to, the process.

      The third, the book introduction, was interesting in that it told a story of a neighborhood militantly critical of the Chávez government from the Left, and organized to act on its militancy, yet continuing to be loyal to the régime. And here we have something rarely reported on — Left criticism of the Bolivarian Revolution for not moving fast enough nor tackling social problems such as crime and drug and alcohol abuse sufficiently. The introduction states:

      “[T]he Bolivarian Revolution is not about Hugo Chávez. He is not the center, not the driving force, not the individual revolutionary genius on whom the process as a whole relies or in whom finds a quasi-divine inspiration.”

      Based on reading the introduction (and not even all of the introduction), We Created Chávez sounds like it will be a highly valuable addition to Bolivarian literature. The author here, basing his work on his visits to Venezuela and a myriad of interviews there, appears intent on fully analyzing the complexities of Venezuela.

      There remains a strong majority support for the revolution, as confirmed in polls that have Nicolás Maduro well ahead and also in that his opponent, Henrique Capriles, is campaigning as a centrist who would continue the revolution but with adjustments. It is not likely that Chávez supporters will believe Capriles. The future direction of the revolution will take a few years to unfold but I suspect it is highly unlikely to be reversed, and won’t be reversed if people remain mobilized.

  6. Alcuin says:

    An anarchist perspective on the Bolivarian Revolution.

  7. Alcuin says:

    A book review of Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui, at LibCom. Guaranteed to set some people’s teeth on edge!

  8. Alcuin says:

    A couple of quick points: First, both of the first two links use a study done in 2011 by the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela for the statistics about failed cooperatives. Second, buried in the text of the first link is this:

    “However, the reality beneath the rhetoric of “endogenous development” is less than inspiring. Out of the more than 220,000 registered cooperatives, only 70,000 are active—a failure rate of 70 percent. The ones that have survived, far from serving as vehicles of worker empowerment, have in some respects institutionalized underground-economy work without improving conditions. Since they are supposedly equal “partners” in a firm, groups of cooperative members who feel exploited within their workplace cannot engage in industrial action. This status as “self-employed associates” rather than “workers” also means they are exempt from national labor laws governing basic protections such as minimum wage requirements. These features are attractive to large capitalist firms that outsource work to cooperatives—many of them staffed by unemployed ex-union members—in order to minimize their reliance on combative permanent workers. (emphasis added)”

    Even though the white text on red background is difficult to read, the link to the Southern African Anarchism site is informative – lots of details that are not provided elsewhere. The review of the book by Uzcátegui is also informative. Both of those links are to anarchist sites, so they have axes to grind, but so does everyone else.

    My personal opinion, after doing much reading, is that Chávez was Venezuela’s FDR. I’m currently reading a book by John Curl, For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America. Cooperatives exist with the permission of the capitalists and the State, which the capitalists control. When cooperatives threaten the status of the capitalist class, they are squashed like bugs. It has ever been thus.

    • Cooperatives do indeed threaten the status of the capitalist class, and that class responds in the only way it can be expected to react. Thus cooperatives will have many struggles until such a sector can be big enough to survive — and can only do so through cooperation among the cooperatives, including doing as much business as possible with one another.

  9. Reblogged this on Hello.Lenin! and commented:
    This is a bit late but it is never too late to join the mourning of the passing away of one of the most committed anti-imperialists and social reformers of the contemporary era, the late President Hugo Chavez.

    We in the Philippines can learn much from the Venezuelan experience under Chavez. The improvement of the lives of the Venezuelan people stands in sharp contrast to the intense poverty, inequality, and oppression suffered by the Filipino people under the joint dictatorship of US imperialism and the Noynoy Aquino ruling clique.

    Under Chavez, poverty in Venezuela drastically fell by half from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. This was made possible only after Chavez broke the chains of foreign control over Venezuela by nationalizing its oil industry and putting the country’s wealth to the service of the people’s need. Chavez also led the building of unity among Latin American countries against US imperialism.

    This article posted in the Systemic Disorder blog puts into perspective the limits of Chavez’s brand of “Socialism of the 21st Century” and the need for the Venezuelan people to vigilantly defend the gains made under Chavez by marching further along the road of social revolution.

    Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!
    Long live the Venezuelan people!
    Long live Hugo Chavez!

    • Thanks, Karlo! I recommend Hello.Lenin! to readers of this blog, and to anybody interested in reading about a better world and literature.

      Hugo Chávez was attacked because he acted on his words. Had he said what he said but continued to allow Venezuela to be plundered for the profits of Northern multi-national corporations, he would have been tolerated, perhaps even given some praise for his new “maturity” the way that Lula and Dilma Rousseff are in Brazil. There, destruction of the Amazon rain forest for ranching interests, grotesque inequality and the dynamics of world capitalism continue unchallenged. Do what multi-nationals want and you can say whatever you want.

      The Bolivarian Revolution has far to go, and can only deepen or be reversed. Whatever the road forward, it must be the decision of the Venezuelan people, not the decision of oil majors.

  10. Alcuin says:

    Here is an interesting commentary on the social forces that brought about the Bolivarian Revolution, this time regarding Evo Morales. He wants a third term – in violation of the Bolivian Constitution.

  11. Alcuin says:

    Here is an interesting interview of William I. Robinson by Jonah Gindin, of Venezuelan Analysis. It is from 2005, but what caught my eye is this statement:

    “I think the weakness in progressive forces internationally is to see the political dynamic in the world today as an effort at U.S. empire. And so the story becomes the U.S. against the rest of the world, and that’s a grave mistake. One of the things that has taken place—one of the key aspects of globalization—is the rise of a transnational elite that shares an interest in attempting to preserve the current global capitalist order, in defending it and extending it, and they also share the view that ‘democracy promotion’ is one key instrument in advancing and stabilizing this global capitalist order.”

    I italicized the sentence ending in “grave mistake” because it is so very true. Here is a list of global billionaires, if you don’t think Robinson is right. I don’t have a clue how an organized resistance to global capitalism could be built, but it is crucial to know who the enemy is before sallying forth.

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