This interview was first published on 24 November 2009. Vladamir Villegas is the ex-President of VTV and ex-Venezuelan Ambassador to Mexico. Alberto Muller Rojas is the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Villegas: General Alberto Müller Rojas stated that socialism of the 21stcentury is a revision, a rectification of the socialist approach that isn’t trying to copy what happened in the extinct Soviet Union. He believes that that model distorted itself because, among other reasons, it constructed a type of state capitalism.
The idea of soviets has stuck in our minds. A public bureaucracy emerged, equivalent to that of any capitalist country and that bureaucracy totally disconnected itself from the masses.
And that isn’t happening here?
Muller Rojas: No. Here they aren’t forming enterprises of state capitalism. What they are forming are communal enterprises, even private enterprises. And they are giving loans to those private enterprises. And those enterprises will have to pay the taxes that the state establishes.
In order to make socialism of the 21stcentury, is a new bourgeoisie necessary in Venezuela?
The bourgeoisie isn’t necessary. And the bourgeoisie isn’t being stimulated. Of course, sometimes its not the bourgeoisie that appears but a bureaucrat. Here they call a middle class person that isn’t middle or upper, the bourgeoisie, as Benedetti says. Those are people that until yesterday lived in shanty housing and got themselves in the private bureaucracy and the government bureaucracy, which is the same thing. One needs the other. That isn’t a bourgeoisie.
But people are talking about a Boli-bourgeoisie that buys banks, insurance companies, that is in the oil business…That exists?
Yes. That exists and it’s one of the weaknesses of the process. It isn’t that they don’t do that. The problem is that you have to deal with them in the same terms that you deal with the old bourgeoisie…And they are receiving privileges.
Bureaucrats. Müller considers that there is an entrenched public bureaucracy in the government.
I believe that it committed an error when it placed itself parallel to individuals that are in the public bureaucracy as leaders of the party.
One of the things that causes the separation between the leadership and the base is that there are leaders with various posts in the Government.
It’s that there aren’t people… That is the tragedy. The only party that had some politically formed cadre was La Causa R and later the PPT (Homeland for All). The rest don’t. The PCV (Communist Party of Venezuela) is a party that has been bureaucratised since the time of Medina. What they wanted was to dominate the union bureaucracy…And you can’t say anything better of the MAS.
You say that there aren’t people, but the President hasn’t wanted governors with PPT cadre, for example...
It’s just that what remains of the PPT is little more than bureaucrats. And those few are just looking for jobs [within the government]. And I said this to their faces.
The leaders of the PPT that joined the PSUV debate within it. There, there is a debate…
And are they listened to by the President?
The minutes with the resolutions of the meetings are sent to the President and he takes them on board.
The President gives the impression that he is not very tolerant to criticism.
Nobody is absolutely insensitive to criticism. Nobody likes to be criticised. You have seen that I have publicly criticised him and it has annoyed him.
For example, when I told him that he was sitting in a nest of scorpions.
And is he still sitting in that nest?
He is still sitting in that nest.
Are there less scorpions than before?
More or less the same amount. And some are the same ones that there were before. When the Baduel case happened, about which I had warned him, he called Vanessa Davies’ program when she was interviewing me, in order to reconcile with me and accept criticism as a good thing.
There are many criticisms of the actions of the government and it hasn't been noticed that in the PSUV there’s a debate questioning the governmental administration.
Yes there has been, and very harsh, for more than a year, with regard to some administrations and the people responsible are being judged. Some people have developed terrible administrations and they are harming the credibility of the President himself.
Are there still people that are carrying out terrible administrations?
I think so. I have moved in different settings and I have heard the same criticisms from people and I have to agree that they are valid. The President has also been made to see that those functionaries don’t take the initiative and all the responsibility falls on his shoulders, negatively affecting the perception of him as a great man; because people ask themselves who chose them.
If he knows all that, why doesn’t it result in changes?
I ask myself that question, but there are strategic and tactical considerations that have to do with maintaining a certain balance and that necessitate making certain decisions with certain people that are key in a given moment.
Chávez questioned the governor of Lara, Henri Falcón, but you don’t hear questioning of functionaries that perhaps have greater responsibilities in the administration. For example, in the area of housing.
But the person who is in charge of housing and the governor of Lara aren’t the same from a tactical and strategic point of view. That is how I respond to you…
Fidel Castro said that he saw the possibility that right-wing governments might return in Latin America, and one thinks of Venezuela.
That is a possibility. It happened in Argentina, with Peronism which gave rise to a right-winger like Menem.
And the most recent case of the Sandista Revolution. Daniel Ortega committed a series of errors, lost power and Violeta Chamorro arrived. The only thing that allowed for the restitution of Ortega in power is that the armed forces were Sandinistas. On the contrary, the Nicaraguan left might have received a blow in the same way that Carmona Estanga tried here.
Is the Venezuelan Armed Forces as Bolivarian as the Nicaraguan is Sandista?
No. And there is an awareness of that. [The armed forces] is a bureaucracy, and it is ruled by the codes of the bureaucracy. If a structure is bureaucratised, it thinks with bureaucratic interests.
That is, many in the armed forces say “Homeland, Socialism or Death” as lip service?
Yes, as lip service.
And that situation can be reverted?
It was reverted on the 11th of April [2002, when a coup against the government was overturned].
Is the leadership figure dispensabler? The surveys say that the majority still don’t want a re-election.
That decision would correspond to the leader themselves. Like the good bullfighters. One has to know when to cut the knot. Like standing still with a red cape while a bull passes.
Fidel Castro had Raúl as his successor. Does a Raúl exist here?
There is more than one person here who is truly revolutionary, but they are very respectful and understand the role that Chávez has played. At this time he is irreplaceable.
Who should be the PSUV candidates to the National Assembly?
The party congress will decide the slate of candidates. The worst thing that it can do is to ignore the desires of the base. …. If we have an effective administration at the cost of a certain amount of support from our own bases, we are going to lose even more if we keep doing that.
Will Chávez be here for a while?
In the foreseeable future, yes. Although much will depend on the conditions in which the parliamentary elections take place. It is a vital situation for the process. and the important thing is that the party members understand that. I don’t think they are giving the elections enough importance, we maintain a misguided communication policy, are on the defensive, putting people like el Matacuras (Leopoldo Castillo) or Carla Angola in competition with Chávez…
As a matter of fact, the President called to talk with the allies…
I’m not against that, but it is good to remember, for example, that Lina Ron helped to construct the PSUV and later left it. She gambled everything and lost.
The PSUV isn’t going to cede space to its allies?
It isn’t that we aren’t going to cede space, it’s that they don’t have any. What is the vote for PPT or for Lina Ron? They don’t even manage 0.5%. Who do they attract? If they think that they are going to have a bureaucracy at the expense of the PSUV it appears to me that we would be acting like idiots. That is my position, I don’t know if it is the President’s.
Do they want Henry Falcón to stay or leave the PSUV?
I don’t like that a governor went to the elections with a different platform to that of the PSUV. That shows ambivalence and opportunism. He campaigned for his platform. I prefer that he had been associated, like the PPT or the PCV is, as an ally. But that ally can’t ask that they are treated the same as a member of the PSUV.
Translated by Sean Seymour-Jones and Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com