Rules of the road

Kasama

On the Shelf

« Open Thread | Main | U.S. Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism… and the Need for Another Way »

May 31, 2007

Comments

MaoundertheRedStar

I watched the whole thing and liked it. It shows how the peoples' support and relying on their power to carry out the plan of revolution.

Still, I disagree, not ideologically, with Hugo Chavez, but more on the grounds of how he's carrying out Socialism now. From what I've seen so far, it's more like a populist position. However, I must look a great deal into this before I actually take that position of what I think Chavez really is. Thanks for sharing.

Pablo

I'm intrigued by this oft-cited phenomenon of worker co-ops in Venezuela. An article on this in Dollars and Sense some months back caught my eye.

What I'm interested in doing is not trashing this or that practice in whichever part of the world that doesn't measure up to some revolutionary purity. I have a Maoist perspective and I'd like to learn more about initiatives like these co-ops and what attracts so many radical people to them (I'd also like to learn more about the Maoist peoples' wars in South Asia, along with the line differences among them, in the spirit of which type of theory and practice is most consistent with the end of a communist world).

The article from ZNet shows how Chavez views this co-op experiment and the Bolivarian Revolution as "21st century socialism." ZNet seems to agree, for the most part.

Are we really serious here? Does socialism equal simply an improved economic position on behalf of the working class? Interest-free loans that allow small producers to "get a fair price" on their wares in a market where profit, the law of value, and class relations still characterize the overall economy in which these co-ops run, in which no policy has been spelled out by the Chavez government on how to get beyond THIS?

So these workers produce their products, but they have to be sold as commodities in competition with other co-ops and sectors of the economy, don't they? Are there policies to prevent one sector or enterprise from buying stuff cheap and then selling it higher, which along with other situations could lead to them becoming capitalists in a more significant dimension? Is there an overall PLAN drawn up by entire industries, localities, workers and officials for the purpose of restricting market dynamics, within which the co-ops play a role? Most importantly, are the masses being imbued with a sense of what this is all for and of how to go about the socialist/communist transition in society and THE WORLD (which for Venezuela DOES still involve becoming independent of imperialism) or are workers encouraged to see the co-ops with an outlook of "I used to be unemployed, now I can survive without worrying about having a manager over me?"

I'm aware different people have different ideas of "socialism." That's fine, but I wanted to get one on the table that people may or may not be familiar with: socialism is "a new economic system, a new political system, and a transition to communism." Is that something necesary or achievable, and if so how do we get there?

I hear it from people so often that "Chavez is not the ideal, but at least it's a good first step." I disagree, assuming we're about stepping (and making leaps) in the direction of a world free of classes, property/social relations that underlie those, and the ideas that spring from those relations.

Getting elected, then attempting to increase regulation of the economy, giving space for some of these local programs to go on, and shutting down pro-capitalist media outlets (even when this action may be justified) is not a path that holds potential for that.

The point is not that the Bolivarians aren't "making changes," nor is it that we should have the attitude of "fuck that revisionist Chavez" and stand for US imperialism trying to lay their ugly hands on him (again).
I remember reading in Dollars and Sense that only about 5% of the economy is estimated to be run through these co-ops, so while they may be growing, it's misleading (though convenient for many who aim to prove that socialism can be brought into being without communist vanguards and without an armed seizure of state power by the proletariat and its allies) to characterize them as the essence of the Bolivarian revolution.

But what might be other reasons as to why some co-ops that do exist don't seem to be sustainable? The article mentioned how some of the workers in I forget which kind of co-op voluntarily paid themselves BELOW Venezuela's minimum wage, just in order to pay back the government loan that kickstarted their business.

Again, this sounds like state capitalism at work, with a "participatory" and "local" garb that charms a lot of observers.

Does the fact that some workers reach a "concensus" to labor without a "boss" mean that capital as a social relation is on its way to being phased out? Does the function of workers remain to be basically producers of wealth, or are they increasingly being drawn in to administering not only their immediate workplaces, but also every other sphere of society?

Mona Caribe

(This is adapted from an email sent, edited for posting. The author is a journalist who lived for several years in Caracas before the Chavez era.)

So, here are some facts that lead me to believe the RCTV shut down is indeed censorship:

1) venevision and televen --important private channels who also blacked out chavez-- were left alone.

2) No one from RCTV was tried or formally charged.

Why? Because the gov't did not formally spell out charges of sedition or invoke "leyes de acato" (laws that mandate obedience and respect towards gov't officials) against RCTV....it simply said the station owed some taxes and cited other technicalities.

Also, RCTV was not allowed to formally make a counterclaim or plead its case.

My take on the second point: If the gov't had a case, why not make it?

Even if the arguments were hard to swallow (invoking leyes de acato is problematic; as they are mostly retrograde tools used by authoritarian regimes) at least make an attempt to legally clarify the situation and define your political position.

On my first point, I'll say this: Venevision and Televen were left alone b/c they shut up. End of story. And finally, if the gov't was fair, it'd try everybody, not single out Radio Caracas TV. People could have been fined and publicly embarassed. Shutting someone down is a big, big deal, especially years after the coup.

Another thing about RCTV: Of all the private channels, it was the most accessible to the poor. Radio Rochela, a very funny program, was a good example of how they were able to reach the masses in a country were the rich and spoke basically speak two different languages.

So, there you have it: RCTV, in my opinion, was dangerous b/c it was too popular and would not quiet down. And TV, as you know, is scarier than print for obvious reasons (newspapers are harder to understand and they cost money, so poor people basically avoid them altogether).

Plain Old Daniel

And all is fair in love and coups. There was no trial for Hugo Chavez when the coup went down. No articles of impeachment.

When the opposition eventually threw down for a recall, it was humiliated in a monitored election . And still the opposition whined. Because hint: they don't give a shit about due process, or anything other than the old order getting restored.

"La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid."

Translated to the Bronxese: payback's a bitch.

All RCTV lost was a monopoly over a certain bandwidth over the airwaves (and let's not mince words: all the crying, and they still have satellite). That's jack squat for the stunt they pulled. The U.S. State Departmen officially recognized Carmona as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. As in, it was ready to use the Big Stick for that loser, and by Big Stick I mean all the military attaches and advisors Carmona would have requested had there not been an active resistance on the ground.

note

In Cuba, there are two, count 'em two publications. Granma and Juventud Rebelde.

Want to start a small paper to watchdog the government? Illegal. You will be jailed.

Want to hand out flyers on the corner? You will be arrested.

If you can get access to duplication or presses, which you can't.

How is that socialist? In the Soviet Union and China, for most of the time, there was no freedom of the press. This didn't just apply to counter-revolutionaries. It was applied to anyone. Even to factions within the parties.

This makes everyone into a toady who can't say what they think. It rewards flunkyism.

Without a free press, even for the worst, the population is reduced to idiocy. There is no check or possibility of a check or contention. This hurts people.

How can we conceive of socialism without a commitment to liberty? How is that possible?

RCTV? Okay, special case. But how far are you willing to go to "protect" people from the range of thinking that's already there?

After all, American leftists, somehow you all managed to figure out what you think even with a pretty narrow media window.

So do tell.

note

NPR is reporting on Venezuela right now. I have to say, we don't have a free press here either.

Christopher Day

This is interesting. I think we all agree that RCTV was targetted because of both their role in the coup AND their continuing influence. Chavez used a technical mechanism, in part apparently, because the more straightforward legal mechanism of simply putting the golpistas on trial is problematic for other reasons. In the end I agree with Daniel that the action is justifiable, but I think its important to take seriously the ways in which this move damges the democratic credentials of the Bolivarian Revolution. Prior to this Chavez's chief strategy has been to build up alternative media voices to what was once a monopolistic control of the media by the oligarchy. This raises the question of why Chavez didn't feel that RCTV's hold on its viewership could be shaken further in any other way than depriving them of their broadcast license. One of the things that has been most attractive about Chavez's approach has been his faith in the ability of the people to distinguish truth from lies and his consequent willingness to let the golpistas continue to put out their lies as an opportunity to expose them. Instead of treating the people like children whose media consumption must be controlled he has sought to cultivate their capacities to view the media more critically. I think this is why the RCTV issue has angered not only hard-core golpistas but also some leftists. It isn't simply a fetishism of RCTV's free-speech rights, but rather a worry that it represents a lack of faith in the people on Chavez's part.

JB

Maybe a better way of putting it is that there isn't one "people". Not in Venezuela, not here.

If someone imposes a "strategy of tension" on your country, including bombings, disinformation, economic sabotage, etc... having a nationally-broadcast, openly hostile media outlet can exacerbate this tremendously.

If the US government says "watch what you say" they mean "don't oppose imperialism"... or even the particular tactics they employ.

If Chavez says "no more fabrications supporting military coups", while also developing community media, radio, etc... well, this is different in kind because the politics of the situation are different in kind.

Liberalism treats politics as above class contention, and as I hope we all know is profoundly hypocritical.

I was disappointed that Chavez didn't crack down as soon as the coup was defeated. I don't think this is so much about his respect for the people, as much as I'd like to believe that. It's politics, served straight up.

There's plenty of corruption and old-fashioned patron/client relationships going on now. PLENTY of opportunism. Chavez has done nothing, literally nothing to crack down on the grotesque consumption of the upper classes. Not just because he has some faith in the people, but because he has been committed, thus far, to a bourgeois legal framework and conception of the state. This includes the rule of law, freedom of the press (which is still basically in effect) and assembly. It also means on the most basic level that he supports the right to private property and has guaranteed it.

No expropriations of latifundia. No bad on foreign capital. They paid their "debts" to imperial financial institutions. Etc.

I'm 100% for the de-licensing of RCTV – and think they should have just taken Globovision at the same time. All other corporate/family owned MASS media should be expropriated without compensation. They made plenty already.

But this then begs the question of how to construct mass media that genuinely opens up communication instead of just replacing disinformation with the kind of rah-rah reporting you get, for example, in Cuba.

I've worked in small publishing for years, exactly the kinds of newspapers and magazines that test freedom of expression in the United States. When Ari Fleisher said "watch what you say" – we did, and redoubled our efforts to tell the truth about this so-called "War on Terror" and the frightening direction Bush steered the world in.

It's a very limited freedom we have here. We can speak if no one listens, or our voice gets lost in the din. Broadcast media is the worst kind of propaganda (O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs and establishment yuppie closet-case Anderson Cooper) combined with a hard diet of soft porn (Paris Hilton, etc.).

But... I can publish a paper, visit the press and rent them. Even with an authoritarian government, even with tight control of broadcast media.

50,000 newspaper can be published for less than 10% of the annual salary of the average American.

It is very difficult for me to conceive of a socialism that didn't have expanded opportunities for everyday people to engage in media... even of the MySpace/blog variety. Yet that is illegal in Cuba, which says a lot about their social structure.

So yeah, let the Murdochs of the world cry as they lose their monopoly... but that slippery slope is real.

First they ban all other parties, then they ban factions. Then there is no one left to ban because we have become the very thing we opposed.

On the whole 21st Century socialism tip, let's maybe try to build FAR MORE than we need to contain. That's why I've supported Indymedia, even where the obvious limitations of participatory media have shown, I believe, that it's not simply a matter of "access".

We need a socialism that opens up the creative element and that isn't fear-based. Even when the sensible are afraid.

And part of that is taking the mass media away from the bourgeoisie. These things aren't hypocritical, they are the plain political facts.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Hot Shots