note: This is a selection of the opinions given in a forum entitled "Intellectuals,
Democracy & Socialism" organised by the Miranda International Centre
(CIM) in Caracas, Venezuela over 2-3 June. Participants at the forum attempted
to constructively criticise Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. To read part I
and II of this series, which are the comments by Marta Harnecker and Vladimir
Acosta at the forum, see the related articles at the end of this article.
Ernesto Villegas: The tone that has been adopted is welcome,
because I am sure that none of the people who have spoken here have spoken out
of disloyalty. Everyone, independent of how debateable their criticisms are,
presents them with all their heart. It's welcome and I hope this space
multiplies, and I appreciate it.
The hyper-leadership of
Juan Carlos Monedero: The first spectre is
hyper-leadership: I think it is typical of countries with scarce social cement,
with a weak system of democratic parties and with large percentages of social
exclusion. Hyper-leadership allows for an alternative front to what we call the
strategic selectivity of the state. The bourgeoisie, the powers of the former
regime, always have the state apparatus and in this sense I believe that
despite the assault, they do not have much less power. In this sense I understand that
hyper-leadership fulfills an important role, it has the advantage of
articulating the unstructured and uniting the fragments, in a way that Gramsci
called "progressive Caesar-ism", that helps us to retake the path of the
revolution in moments of political vacuum or of ideological confusion.
this leadership also comes with problems. Hyper-leadership ultimately
deactivates a popular participation that trusts too much in the heroic
abilities of the leadership.
And there is the leadership of President Chavez, where we note the
necessity of collectivising this leadership, we know that day by day, and for a
lot longer, this indispensable leadership has to balance its weight with the
development of other leadership.
Roberto Lopez: The necessity of constructing a
collective leadership: From this perspective, the need to construct a
collective leadership of the revolutionary process is undeniable, the necessity
of a rectification of President Chavez himself, who should allow the
construction of this collective leadership, who should allow a type of
vanguard. I don't see this possibility in the current leadership of the [United
Socialist Party] PSUV, because there are personalities in the PSUV who weren't
even elected and, however, are vice-presidents of the party. They were co-opted
by President Chavez himself despite the fact that the bases of the PSUV didn't
vote for them. The PSUV would be the aberration of what would be a collective,
democratic leadership of a revolutionary party.
Javier Biardeau: Chavez has taken up
political space and if he continues doing this he's going to generate problems:
One of the observations that has been made from the beginning is the theme of
hyper-leadership. Others have called it progressive Bonaparte-ism, others Caesar-ism
with the positivist reading by Vallenilla Lanz about democratic Caesar-ism. I
think it's a big mistake. What Gramsci said is basically that in moments in
which a collective political leadership structure isn't well established, a big
political personality takes, under the weight, the dialectics of the revolution
or the dialectics of the restoration. And I think that Chavez has occupied a
political vacuum, an important political vacuum that if he continues to occupy,
he can create knives for the very throat of the Bolivarian revolution.
the tasks, for the functions, for the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution a
political structure is required, we're going to call it an intellectual
collective. It doesn't require intellectual individuals, it requires critical
thinking and it requires a recuperation of the vehicle between socialism and
democracy that the right have constantly tried to obscure, creating a dilemma
in which socialism is totalitarianism and representative democracy is precisely
the end of history and the last path that remains for us.
Confusion between party
and popular power
Gonzalo Gomez: To go with but to not subordinate
popular power: Parties can aspire to propose and orient, accompanied by the
social movements, in the construction of popular power, but they can't
subordinate power, subordinate the represented to the representatives.
thing is to administer the regulations and the laws of the state and it is
another thing when public power is converted into a cover for popular power,
this is another problem that we have to resolve or these contradictions are
going to continue.
relations in a revolutionary process are tense no matter how much we try to
harmonise them. You have to try, but they are going to be tense, and we have to
create correlations of power that allow things to be pushed in the right
direction. Intellectuals, or the so called intellectuals – I prefer to talk
about integrals- can act in the framework of the government and the state
apparatus, of the social movements or of popular power, in the framework of political
organisations or the party, and they can also have independent contributions,
but they can't be isolated from these scenarios and there has to be a specific
role for them, because that's where things are defined. And if we criticise,
for example, the party, and we are involved in it in order to describe it, to
provide a political level, ideological formation, to struggle for the model of
the party that we want, we are looking at the bulls from the barrier, unless
someone thinks that here another organisation can arise that is so alternative
that it converts itself in the big party of the masses. This alternative
doesn't exist in the country. There isn't one!
Santiago Arconada: I think
there is currently a risk that the PSUV will crush the forms of organisation at
the base, which have to exist independently. I'm convinced that political
organisation can't orchestrate nor colonise the grass roots organisations. The
grassroots social organisations have the right to count on all the diversity
possible and they can't be pigeonholed.
appropriate relationship between political organisation and the grassroots
organisations constitutes a problem that we have yet to confront. This would be
one of the rectifications, in my opinion, that is most necessary right now.
think that the reason why this profound mistake has been made in the current
political organisations, and in this concrete case, in the PSUV, is because
they don't recognise the differences between the area of the communal council,
the area of the water committee, the area of the telecommunications,
information and postal services committee, the area of the energy committee,
and the area of politics itself.
think that the smallest favour that one can give to the Bolivarian
revolutionary process is to make socialism appear as something essential. And this contributes, in a very effective way
to the expression that, unfortunately I haven't been the only one to hear, and
that summarises the problem in a dramatic way: "We're going to make a communal
councils, whoever isn't socialist can leave."
of work, years of consolidation of public space, are being seriously affected.
It's very hurtful, for want of a better word, to find politicians with
guidelines that avoid this problem and simply allude to the water committees of
the PSUV, to the communal councils of the PSUV as if that were possible. As if
it weren't also the way in which this community expression is distorted and in
its distortion, is lost, is dead, it stops being what it should be…
I'm talking about isn't a dogma. The reason why revolutionary political
organisation recognises that it shouldn't …colonise the grassroots
organisations, is the result of a lot of experience of revolutionary movements,
over time. It's a mistake that we made and that we're not going to return to,
it's a mistake that we've already evaluated, that we're already living. It's
not a dogma, its part of our experience.
The party and
Michael Lebowitz: The party should
guarantee spaces for intellectuals: Once, someone asked Victor Serge if the
seeds of Stalin were present in Lenin. Serge responded, "There were a lot of
seeds in Lenin". I believe that the responsibility of the intellectual
revolutionary is to take care of the revolutionary seeds- and to do it anywhere
possible. It is to communicate the vision of socialism of the twenty first
century to the masses because, as we know, ideas become a concrete force when
they grab the minds of the masses. The
responsibility [of the intellectual] also consists in trying to convince the
leadership of the process of these ideas and visions.
the party really wants to advance the process of construction of twenty first
century socialism, it should guarantee space where revolutionary intellectuals
can fulfill their revolutionary commitment. To not offer this space and to not
encourage the caring of the revolutionary seeds is to allow the weeds to grow.
Juan Carlos Monedero: A new nomenclature: I
think that there are two faces to the one problem: Inefficiency in the state apparatus allows
corruption to slip in. The battle against corruption and inefficiency was
articulated in the campaign of 1998, but its still waiting for an answer.
Corruption destroys resources that are everyone's and transfers them to
privileges of the new castes, making luxury and ostentation one goal. Nomenclatures sometimes take a generation to
be constructed and sometimes one has the feeling that there is a new
nomenclature in Venezuela
that has been constructed too quickly, anchored in this ghost of history.
like the ministerial changes within the one government, that they do when they
change the minister, messes with all the staff who are working in
administration or it means that essential cadre for this process go from the
ministry to the sewer, they sit on the bench and you can say goodbye to
essential resources for the progress of this country.
Roberto Lopez: Go from the three Rs to the four Rs: The
answer (respuesta in Spanish).  The ideological struggle, the debate and
rectification are necessary. Someone added a fourth R to revise, rectification
and re-propel, the people have started to add the fourth R- the answer. Let's
stop reflecting and respond at once to what they're going to fix and what
they're not going to fix, because it seems in the end that the three Rs was a
in Maracaibo we
have organised popular assemblies, in 2008 and in 2009, assemblies of analysis,
of characterisation of the various ministries and state institution- what they
should correct and what not, but this ended up being an intellectual exercise
that didn't lead to anything. It lacked the fourth R, the answer. I hope that
president Chavez understands this. President Chavez has to understand it
because he himself has given an excessive importance to this. The revolution
basically can't correct its destiny if President Chavez doesn't agree to
correct the direction of the revolution and I pronounce it correct because in
one way or another this revolution, without Chavez's leadership, would be
chaotic. Now it's possible to imagine the destiny of the Bolivarian Revolution
without the leadership of Chavez. It's a dialectical contradiction that has to
be solved, but I think it's impossible to advance towards there.
Capitalism or Socialism
Victor Alvarez: The new model: a pending subject.
Without doubt, Venezuela is winning the battle against poverty. However, the
pending subject continues to be advancing the transformation of the capitalist
economy to a new socialist productive model through which the structural causes
that generate unemployment, poverty and social exclusion will be completely
ten years the weight of the private sector has increased. The increasing
criticism by the Bolivarian government of capitalism as a productive model that
generates unemployment, poverty and exclusion, that hasn't been able to
guarantee full satisfaction with the increasing material and spiritual needs of
the population…but after ten years of Revolution the official statistics reveal
that, far from decreasing, the weight of the private sector in the GDP has
increased. Its participation continues to be dominant, thus defining the nature
of the current capitalist model in Venezuela.
Javier Biardeau: Capitalism grows but
the discourse is radicalised: I don't think it's necessary to charge ourselves
with defending the Cuban revolution as a historic legacy, as this becomes a
handicap of the Venezuelan revolution. I think that during the transition to
socialism, as Victor Alvarez has said, it's advisable to think that, as the
capitalist mixed economy strengthens, and the private sector strengthens, the
presidential discourse is a discourse of socialist radicalisation. So, how does
one combine the information on the growth of the capitalist productive matrix
with the radicalisation of the presidential discourse? How do we assimilate
these tendencies? What is going on here?
Luis Britto: We proclaim ourselves to be socialists,
but we are capitalists. Venezuela is among the countries that scandalously,
defiantly, and openly, established the theme of socialism once again in the
world, when the rest of the world was going about trying to disguise
neoliberalism or trying to be recognised at least as moderate neoliberalism.
But I'd say that we have stayed in an almost static tie. We proclaim ourselves
as socialists but, apart from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and some of the
big basic industries, we are a capitalist country. The constitution recognises
it as such and they say around here that it's not bad to be rich and that it's
legitimate to get rich.
live in a dual society and I would say, in a fabrication that means that when
one tries to make a mixed system of hens and foxes in the same henhouse, within
a week there are only foxes and furthermore they will eat the farmer.
necessary to overcome this lack of definition, and to overcome this lack of
definition by going into the ideological battle, that is one of the most
Roberto Lopez: A new Bolivarian bourgeoisie associated
with business groups. Regarding what Victor Alvarez raised about Venezuela
becoming more capitalist in the last few years, I think that this means a
scenario in which private business sectors that aren't necessarily those that
are trying to bring down the government, but those that that are allied with
the Bolivarian bureaucracy, have become multi-millionaires in this period. It
would be necessary to make an analysis of the business groups and of the
relation with the earnings of many leaders of the process. It would seem that
there is a new Bolivarian bourgeoisie associated with business sectors. For
example, a fact that I know of almost directly is that the contract companies
that have just been nationalised, expropriated on the east side of the lake
[Maracaibo], where in practically all of these companies there were businessmen
who had participated in the coup [in April 2002], in the petroleum strike, and
all these were associated with leaders of the PSUV, with leaders of the
revolution, with legislators, Bolivarian governors and so on.
Victor Alvarez: It's necessary to warn that the
expansion of the internal productive apparatus continues being limited due to
the displacement of national production by imports that make the Bolivar over
valued and the [US]
dollar cheap, inhibiting productive investment and reorientating towards
commercial investment. This phenomenon has stimulated a higher growth in
commercial importation and of the national network of wholesale distribution
and the retail commercialisation of imported products.
favour the reproduction of capitalism. Currently, the transformation of the
capitalist economy to a socialist economy is confronted by a political economy
that still directs and concentrates a large part of its fiscal, financial, and
currency incentives, government purchases, primary material supplies etc in
favour of commercial companies that reproduce the capitalist economy, which is
exactly what we want to transform. It is one of the main constraints to the
transformation of the capitalist economy into a socialist production model that
underlies the Bolivarian governments own political economy.
Gonzalo Gomez: A
party in which the government bureaucracy excessively predominates: I was at the founding conference [of the
PSUV]. A good part of the leadership did not participate in the founding
conference as such, and there we voted on some principles and on a program that
isn't referred to and that doesn't guide politics with its orientation.
Politics is being characterised essentially by electoralism, it's an appendage
to public management and removed from the concrete struggles of the popular
sectors, and this needs to be resolved.
has to do with problems of [ideological] formation and it has to do with
problems of composition, including [the PSUV] leadership. This is a party where
the government bureaucracy dominates in an exaggerated way…but there's very
little impact on the workers movement and on workers and their organisations,
which is starting to reverse with the creation of the fronts. There's no
working class in the leadership of the party, there are no rural worker leaders
in the leadership of the party, there is a government bureaucratic sector that
monopolises the management and therefore the process of the social movements,
its aspirations, its worries, its struggles, can't be reflected how they should
be reflected. If this party doesn't change, it could be difficult to be on top
of the challenge of the revolutionary process.
there are problems related to principles and the program. We lack statutes
because they weren't approved. And the party is at the whim of any correlation
of possible forces, because there aren't rules, the rules appear in the
progression of the same game. This should be changed to guarantee the full
democratisation of the organisation and, on the other hand, this relationship
with the state, with popular power and with the social movements, should also
enter the PSUV to modify it, or into those organisations that participate in
it, knowing that its necessary to count on this organisation and this party and
that what happens there is going to define substantial things in the history of
this country. You can't watch from outside. Therefore, an invitation to commit
oneself or to have something to do with…the construction of the party.
Roberto Lopez: The PSUV is an electoral fortification.
I share the opinion of many of us that here the party exists in name, but as a
party it doesn't exist. No collective leadership exists, not even a bad
imitation of what the Bolshevik party of 1918 was. What exists is an electoral
fortification that until now has show to be effective in winning elections but
that, it can't necessarily, as others here have said, continue being effective
in the future to keep winning elections.
Luis Britto: With the nominations of candidates, the
criteria of the grassroots aren't respected. In many cases it's said that there
is no consultation at the base, that little by little in some places a
political class has been crowding out what should be the work of popular
representation. Apparently, in many cases, candidacies have been lost because
there was one candidate that had been elected by the bases and another was
imposed, who hadn't enjoyed the support of the bases, so that the
revolutionaries were divided in the electoral process and for that important
points were lost.
say to the social organisations, organise yourself, meet, unite, and later when
they do that, they aren't given any kind of role, their postulations are
rejected, they aren't paid attention to, etc etc.
I think that within these beacons of light is the recovery of participation.
2021 I hope for a country with truly complete participation where the citizens
can assert their rights, individuals as much as collectives, and where
decisions are taken at the grassroots level, supported by the grassroots. Where
political participation is a definitive and inalienable integral part of the
life of every citizen, like it was for an elite in the so called democracy of Athens.
Gonzalo Gomez: Openness of the state media to
criticism and revolutionary debate, without being scared that this provides
fire to the opposition. We may know how to set up things, but to deny debate is
the best way to give tools to the right and encourage people to declare [their
criticisms] in the spaces of the right.
for the big social organisations and for popular power: Thorough development of
the alternative media, but establishing it not as little, isolated local media
in limited spaces, but rather media for the big social organisations and the
organisations of popular power, for the communal councils and for the future
communes, for the workers organisations and the rural workers- that is
democratisation of communication. To not depend on a state official deciding if
you go on television or not, even when we have much more space than in the
past, but even more is needed.
Carmen Bohorquez: The president can't do it alone: What we are clear
about is that the pace has to be accelerated and our efforts coordinated
because the president can't do it alone.
what are our responsibilities? We talk, we write about all these changes, we
analyse causes, we make projections, we highlight achievements, but almost
always alone. We meet occasionally when there is a conference like this one, as
we've seen over the past week, in meetings that the Network of Intellectuals
and Artists in Defence of Humanity has called, in the philosophy forums, in the
forms that CIM organises. But, can't we do anything more? Can't we meet every
so often to collectively analyse these problems that we're pointing out here to
work on them. They are problems that require refined strategies, that require
documents to be produced that are useful for those who have to make
resolutions, that, as the minister for higher education said, allow us to, for
example, design a plan in order to have a combative presence in the
Juan Carlos Monedero: What doesn't hurt
doesn't change: The first step involves illuminating these spectres as
problems. What isn't seen can't be identified as the source of pain. What
doesn't hurt doesn't change and what doesn't change dies. I think it's the
intellectuals' obligation to oxygenate all these wounds with their criticism.
I said at the start, I think this meeting, from my perspective, is a negation
of those who want to deny that there is the ability to criticise in Venezuela. I
think that this meeting is an invitation of hope and I believe that the courage
that we've shown here gives shrewdness to our thoughts, I think an important
part of our collaboration is going to come out so that this revolution
continues to be beautiful.
Collected by Marta
Harnecker for Rebelion.org, and translated by Tamara Pearson for
Referring to the government campaign to Rectify, Revise, and Re-propel the