Venezuela: A “Critical Evaluation” of the Bolivarian Process II

This is another one of the
presentations broadcast on the state-owned television channel VTV. It was part
of a forum "Intellectuals, Democracy & Socialism" organized by
the Centro Internacional Miranda over June 2-3, which has sparked a debate
about the role of criticism within the Bolivarian process.
By Marta Harnecker
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Translator's Note: This is another one of the presentations
broadcast on the state-owned television channel VTV. It was part of a forum
"Intellectuals, Democracy & Socialism" organized by the Centro
Internacional Miranda over June 2-3, which has sparked a debate about the role
of criticism within the Bolivarian process.

The president is seeking
criticism

Apologies
for having arrived late, I'm coming directly from San Salvador, where I attended
the swearing in ceremony of the president from the FMLN [Farabundo Marti
National Liberation Front], Mauricio Funes.

I
am in this country to be critical. I don't know if you all know that when I
interviewed President Chavez - which was published under the name Hugo Chavez Frias: A Man of the People -
I took advantage, as I generally do in my interviews, to ask questions which
spring from the doubts and criticisms of the left, and, furthermore, I took the
opportunity to convey the criticisms that I had collected from the people and
from intellectuals. So it was when the president said to me, "I want you to
come over here, because I want to have critical people at my side," ... What do I
mean with this? That he has the desire to receive criticism and what I have
done all these years is send him papers. You all know that the president isn't
someone who works with a team of advisers, and apparently I am an adviser, but
in fact I'm not. I only send papers and who knows if he reads them and if he
takes them into consideration.

I
want to tell you all that there is a big coincidence between what you have all
raised here and what I have been conveying. Of course I've done it in a
personal way, I haven't participated in the press and I think that I shouldn't
because, in the first place, I'm a Chilean passionate for this process and I
think that it's Venezuelans who are constructing [the Bolivarian revolution]
and I'm more like a recorder of what is happening. That's my vocation and
that's why I write so many testimonial books because I collect what they are
doing in different countries.

Governments can
massively promote popular participation

I
only wanted to say two things. One was about something that Carmen Bohorquez
already touched on... It's common to find the most radical sectors of the left in
Latin America rejecting the state. Everything
that is the state, the government, is bad and I think that we have to
distinguish between governments that want to support their people in the
struggle for liberation and governments that are a barrier to those processes.

All
the left wing governments in Latin America, as many of you have said, are
working with a terrible bureaucratic apparatus that they have inherited. But
that doesn't mean that from the state and from the government things can't be
done, and I think that this process has advanced so much because there has been
a government that wanted to create two things: spaces of participation and
popular power.

I
would say that participation can't be decreed from above; participation is a
process of cultural transformation. And that's why it's so fundamental and has
been a very big stimulus in Latin America when we've had local or national
governments that assume that it's necessary to create spaces of participation
to achieve this and to create teams that collaborate to facilitate this
participation, because in that way the participation isn't decreed, nor does it
spontaneously start existing. In most cases facilitators are needed. Unfortunately
it's often considered important to dedicate resources to infrastructure works
and not to pay the salary of the facilitators.

Facilitator role, not supplanting
role

Now,
for me the government, the state, should have a facilitator role of popular participation,
not a supplanting role, not the role of director. That's why I'd like to
recognize the Ministry of the Communes which is planning to listen to the
experiences of the communes that already exist and learn from them. And [the
ministry] has said that the communes can't be decreed and that it's necessary
to respect the construction processes of the people.

But
there are contradictions in the proposal because, at the same time as they say
this, we have the [government youth organisation] Frente Francisco de Mirando
creating the Social Battle Rooms and there we would have to discuss and we
would have to clarify what role this Frente is playing and if these Social
Battle Rooms that they are imposing on the communities with the idea that its
necessary to facilitate the processes in the communities, [we have to ask] if
they aren't exercising a tutelage function instead of simply facilitating the
processes.

Don't confuse popular
power with political militancy

On
the other hand, Vladimir Acosta said [see http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4539] something
that I have always insisted upon a lot- we can't confuse the popular power with
political militancy. The party is one thing and popular power another. I'd say
that red can be the color of the party but it can never be the color of popular
power nor should it be the color of the ministries. One of the things that we
find strange and that will shock the foreigners a lot, especially in Europe, is that the state is the instrument which is
constructing the party. This is something totally contradictory to our
perception of the party.

Goals and timing hinder
the maturing of the processes

There's
one thing that I think we haven't talked about, except for yesterday morning,
which is the big problem of goals and timing. I think that democratic processes
require maturing, require time, but here what happens is that we give ourselves
big goals and little time, so we have everyone racing around to achieve these
goals. There's a terrible next-task-ism and there's no possibility to think
strategically and to allow things to mature. When you are working on a process
of transformation, the state intervention comes along and breaks this rhythm of
maturing, pressuring the process.

And
regarding this, let me say that I think that the idea of the communal councils
is an excellent idea and that the president is very clear that constructing
politics he has to construct social force, because some people think that
constructing force is to have positions, win positions. But to construct this
social force, it has to be constructed through a determined time of maturing. The
mobile government vans arrive, for example, and they have to elaborate projects
in five days, and instead of there being a process of formation of the communal
councils there was a process that lasted at least three months. As some of us
who participated in the initial idea were thinking, it was reduced to two
[general] assemblies [of the community] and done: one to create the promoters
commission [with the task of setting up the communal council] and the other to
elect the spokespeople. To that we owe the distorting of the processes,
extraordinary experiences are dying.

An abyss between the marvellous
ideas and reality

I
would say here that you all, that the president, have had so many extraordinary
ideas, but when we examine those ideas and look at reality, that is, the
application of these ideas, you see that there is an abyss between the two.

The cult of
improvisation

And
there's one last question, I think that you are all in the cult of
improvisation. I came here to the first solidarity event after the coup [of
April 2002] and I remember that [the solidarity event] was organised in two weeks,
and it turned out that lots of intellectuals came and here they told me, "You
see how we organize things here in Venezuela, in two weeks, when in other parts
of the world and in Latin America events are prepared six months beforehand.
But people don't think about how much better these events could have been if
they had been better planned."

And
I feel very sad when I see how many marvellous ideas are frustrated because of
these types of things, because there is a lot of potential here, there's a president
who has some extraordinary ideas, but time is lacking to mature them, the time
to concretize them.

Popular educators and
not supplanters of popular protagonism

I
think the intellectuals here have a very important role to support these
processes of maturing and as to the role of the party, I think the role of the
party in the 21st century has to do with facilitating the process of
participation and has to do with popular education and not with supplanting
popular protagonism nor with being the owner of the truth, ideas that we had
decades ago about political militancy, that we are already surpassing. Thanks a
lot.

Translated by Tamara
Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com

Marta Harnecker is a
Chilean psychologist, journalist, and author of dozens of testimonial books
about the processes and experiences of political transformation in Latin
America.

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