Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the past few days an article published in the 6th edition (September, 2007) of the Costa Rican anarchist journal La Libertad has been making its way across the internet in English translation. Its latest appearance is on the A-Infos site. As far as Molly can make out its first appearance in English was oddly enough on the Polish anarchist site Centrum Informacji Anarchistcznej which publishes some material in English(see HERE). The article in question is a response to a previous more or less Pro-Chavez article published in La Libertad, and the author is a member of the Venezuelan anarchist editorial collective of El Libertario. The article is too long to reproduce here, and Molly suggests that her readers consult the A-Infos original at . A few salient points from the article bear repeating here.
A. The left in this part of the world, and perhaps in most other countries as well, has a long standing tradition of believing in the "great man" theory of history with at least part of their divided minds. The article points out that the present dynamics of opposition to neo-liberalism did not appear miraculously with the advent of 'Chavenism' whether dating from his comic opera coup attempt in 1992 or his more sucessful use of electoral politics to actually gain power recently. The oppositional movements began to gather strength in the 1980s, seperate from any Blanquist dreams, and Chevez rode to power using this sentiment and has attempted to channel it towards his own ends while in power.
B. The author criticizes the author of the original article for calling for and praising a pluralistic movement in his own country, Costa Rica and recognizing "complexity" in that struggle while demonizing any and all opposition to Chavez as a simplistic "agents of reaction". This is hardly a unique failing. With long experience Molly has come to know that even otherwise sensible leftists who can understand the complexities of their own countries where there may be "10 sides" rather than 2 will too often return to a kindergarten Stalinist mindset when they look at the so-called 'Third World' in situations that may be much more complex.
C. The Venezuelan comrade points out that the tradition of a "populist strong man" has had a long life in Venezuelan history. The obvious comparison to Peronism is something that is studiously avoided by acolytes of Chavez of whatever leftist stripe they may be.
D. The author also points out the ineffectiveness of the social policies in Venezuela in comparison to the vast financial resources available to the state because of the "oil bonanza". As he says, the poor get scraps while a new business class of collaborators with the government fatten themselves at the public trough. The article refers to these people as the "boliburguesia". In English this would be termed the "bolibourgeoisie", and it is the subject of many reports, both leftist (usually left Trotskyist) and otherwise that have appeared over the past few years. Molly has seen this sector discussed in places like 'The Economist' and analyzed much more thoroughly there. It fattens on the import business and on various other monopolistic privileges granted by a corrupt state.
Doubtless this parasitic business class sucks up a good proportion of the oil wealth that would otherwise be available for actual real help to the poor and working class in Venezuela. Doubtless as well that if Chavez ever has to tack in another direction should the world situation change- a feat at which he will probably excel Muhamar Khaddafi- those leftists who see no reason to educate themselves about this business sector will suddenly discover it and blame it for the supposed "betrayal of the revolution". Here, however, is where Molly has to go beyond what the Venezuelan comrades of El Libertario point out. Situations such as Venezuela are indeed complex, and there are other class forces struggling for dominance other than a corrupt state sponsored clique of speculators. Think for a minute. Suppose a business gets say $1 million because of "connections". It takes merely two heads of a division of a government department charged with "deepening the revolution" to each skim off $500,000 and equal this amount. Ten subchiefs each skimming off $100,000 have the same effect. One hundred petty bureaucrats each pocketing (or giving out to friends or relatives) only $10,000 have the same effect. Venezuela is a country where the state appointed "helpers of the people" with such opportunities number in the tens of thousands. These people corrupt and end up smothering local initiatives of the poor and working class, and it is their influence that gives Venezuela the reputation of being one of the most corrupt countries in the region. They are actually a class that is struggling for power, and to a large degree they are not just a "class in itself" but also a "class for itself" as the ideology of Chavism gives them coherence and justification for their aspirations.
It is true that situations such as those in Venezuela give some minor opportunities for people from the lower classes to self organize, but it is also a certain guarantee that such efforts will rapidly become either colonized or suppressed, co-opted or eliminated, by an imperial New Class with the unlimited power of an oil rich state to back it up. Those who expect some sort of real, self-managing socialism to emerge from such a situation are highly unrealistic. To the ideological entrepreneurs of the emerging state bureaucracy in Venezuela this sudden windfall represents the same sort of business opportunity as the "tech bubble" did for another class in the USA of the 90s. There's gold in them there hills ! The Chavez bubble may yet burst for any number of reasons. Increasing unemployment and inflation, some of it due to the gutting of domestic industry in favour of the bolibourgeoisie importers. Economic discontent from this that cannot be bought off easily enough with crumbs. Disgust and fear of the fact that Venezuela is advancing towards a Colombian level of crime and violence no matter what the government says or does. Any number of other factors could prick the bubble. Chavez may do it himself, as mentioned above, by making an abrupt turn at a simple whim. That's the danger you run when you depend upon a strongman to "embody" a revolution.
But Molly has strayed pretty far from the original article now. She refers the reader back to the original for a interesting read.

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