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Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project

Venezuela: Firmness and Participation Needed to Deepen Transition to Socialism

This is an editorial published in issue 20 of the Venezuelan newspaper Marea Socialista on July 12th 2009.

The Honduras coup was aimed at attacking the entire the Bolivarian Alliance for the People's of America (ALBA) project, and in particular the Bolivarian Revolution. The crisis of the global capitalist system is deepening and imperialism has entered a phase where it will try to resolve it with politico-military initiatives. The dangerous example that confronts it in Latin America is the Bolivarian Revolution and the ALBA process. The advance in the recovery of land; the latest nationalisations; the takeover of some businesses bankrupted by the bosses and restarted by workers as units of socialist production; the advance, although partial, of many collective agreements and solidarity-based trading between the ALBA countries, despite their imperfections and deformations, are an alternative to imperialist trade that imperialism isn't going to allow to continue without resistance.

With this coup in Honduras, a new attack has commenced against these projects of Bolivarian independence that in some of these countries have been declared a transition towards socialism. The Honduras coup is an attack that the local oligarchy has applauded here.

At the same time, the acceleration that President Chavez, according to his words, tries to stamp on the process of transition has sent trembles through the bureaucratic structure of the bourgeois state, completely in crisis and compartmentalised. And the emerging bureaucracy has reacted with its instinct of self-preservation and defence of the privileges it has acquired in the ten years of the revolutionary process.

This is the principal foci of tension and class struggle. In addition to corruption, manipulation of projects and inefficiency in finding solutions to the most urgent problems of the people, there is, on top of all this, the emergence of a new bourgeoisie, still embryonic, forged in the heat of business dealings with the state. There is no lack of Bolivarian businesspeople, defenders of socialism of the 21st century, who are carrying out multimillion-dollar business dealings, competing for their share of the oil rent. Military sectors, both active and retired, are not exempt from participating in this distribution, between the bureaucracy and the new Bolivarian bourgeoisie.

Therefore, in its attempt to advance at a faster, more determined pace, the revolution confronts two powerful enemies. The traditional Venezuelan oligarchy unconditionally allied to Yankee imperialism and the bureaucracy allied to the new bourgeois sector that is being forged in the heat of business dealings with a revolution that tries to advance towards socialism in a gradual manner and in a country with a capitalist economy.

In order to deepen the revolution it is necessary to attack both fronts simultaneously. In the name of confronting the traditional oligarchy, whose vanguard is the private media, we cannot leave to one side the dispute with the internal enemy: the corrupt bureaucracy and Bolivarian bourgeoisie. The battle is simultaneous.

In the first place, a decisive attack is necessary against the pro-coup media. Honduras has once again proven the importance of the so-called media war. It is imperative to finish the law on the radio and television airwaves that continues to benefit a bourgeois and imperialist criterion of so-called press freedom, so that it can be used by the social movements and the political currents of the revolutionary process.

Similarly, in the political dispute with the traditional right, we cannot allow the impunity that has reigned until now for their leaders to continue. Many of these people were politically responsible for the April 2002 coup and the oil lockout, and continue doing politics. In this sense a first step is the campaign against Globovision [TV station] for the violation of human rights that the Association of Bolivarian Lawyers and diverse social movements and alternative media outlets like Aporrea are carrying out. Economic measures are necessary to limit the enormous economic power that this sector still holds, likewise, the revision of the pardons to the coup plotters in order to put an end to impunity.

In the second place, the fight with the bureaucracy of the process. This is the most difficult, given that there isn't a clear identification of the sectors in direct conflict inside the structure of the government and the process. But we can attempt an initial characterisation of those sectors that we confront. There are those that resist change in three fundamental areas: the political, the economic and the military.

In the political terrain they are those who try to reproduce with a new name the political institutions of the Fourth Republic, eliminating the advances made in the participation of the workers and the revolutionary people, and impeding the democratic development of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in order to maintain it simply as an electoral machine with clientelist methods. In this case, the importance of developing the most direct and democratic participation possible in state policies is based on the development of workers' councils and social movements that, together with President Chávez, can put forward key proposals and make decisions.

In the economic terrain they are a) those who in order to maintain their privileges refuse to transform the existing relations of production, strengthening a model of state capitalism, with a pyramid leadership and traditional management, in which the right to participation and control are denied to workers. This is the case with the resistance by those sectors that oppose the transformations proposed by the workers from the basic industries of Guyana and by the management of Corpoelec, to cite two examples. And b) those who slow the advance of fundamental measures like the nationalisation of the entire banking sector, the strategic branches of production such as the food sector and all foreign trade. Also they oppose the opening of the books of private enterprise which is aimed at putting a halt to the process of accumulation of enormously disproportionate profits, by setting a strict limit on that bourgeois sector forged in the heat of business dealings with the state.

In the military terrain it is undeniable that the present reforms are positive and have enormously limited the influence of imperialism and the oligarchy inside the armed forces. But it has only limited it: this does not mean that it has disappeared. The instrument of the internal mechanisms of promotion and economic activity, in which high-ranking military officers form an organic part of the management and presidencies of state industries and services, represents a real danger. Here the matter of the revolutionary people in arms, raised by President Chávez on many occasions, is fundamental in order to assure the defence of the revolution and confront the phenomenon of foreign or national paramilitarism and hired killers. A fundamental task of the revolutionary people is to integrate themselves into and help the development of the National Bolivarian Militia.

The battle of ideas

The ideological terrain is where the confrontation with the bureaucracy occurs in an intense manner. This battle will have a privileged setting during the next months: the PSUV Congress.

We will only deal briefly with one of the central topics here: what kind of socialism are we fighting for? The name "socialism of the 21st century'' is still a label that fills many jars with different content. The bureaucracy, as a structured reactionary sector inside the process, isn't only an economic or political unit: it has also been constructing an ideology, that is, an articulated system of ideas in order to present them as the keys to the socialism that we should build. There is a remarkable and enormous similarity of this ideological proposal with the failed model of the ex-Soviet Union.

This similarity is in the three definitions that the bureaucracy's natural spokespersons repeat tirelessly. First, the necessity of a central plan but without the democratic participation of the workers, or the communities, through their organisations. Instead they want it designed by technocrats from above. Second, the systematic attack against the autonomy of the trade unions, denying their historic role as organisations that defend the interests of workers, above all in a transition like this, where the capitalist economy predominates. They instead propose that the unions be simple appendages of the state. And third, maintaining the existing social relations of production, that is, the present social division of work between those who command and those who obey, between those who manage and those who do.

We fight for a different socialism; we have to construct its finished forms on the basis of historic experience, learning from its errors, inventing, creating. But the socialism for which we fight is measured by the progress in changing these relations of production, and direct democratic participation of workers and communities in developing the plan, with their organisations, and in the autonomy of the workers' and people's organisations to fight for their rights.

The debate is open: it must be taken out to all the revolutionary people especially to the PSUV militants and to the congress of the party.

Translated by Sean Seymour-Jones for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.



Democratic, participatory collectives, in the workplace and in the community, are the key to the building of real socialism.

Our problem, however is that we are not trained to function democratically. We compete in our small groups for privilege and power. We don't listen. We are fond of hearing our own voice, or we are passive and content to let other people make the decisions.

Fortunately, however, there is a science, an art and a spirit of group democracy; and in a society which is moving towards democratic socialism, EVERYBODY needs to study how to function effectively in a group.

When workers everywhere are confident that we can function together collectively, then there will be an irresistible demand from below to eliminate all hierarchy: in industry, in the media, in government.

Denouncing the hierarchy is necessary but not sufficient. Workers and community members have to be certain that we are ready to take command collectively, without falling either into chaos or a new hierarchy. In the meantime we need to educate ourselves in daily practice and study.