We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Venezuela: Workers’ Control and the Contradictions of the Bolivarian Process

from Global Research, but originally from the Socialist Project (Canada).

This is a transcription of an interview with a union activist at a state owned coffee company in Venezuela. This could have been a great opportunity to learn about progress of workers in a state controlled company, but the union leader talked mostly at great length about political theory. Little of substance was discussed about his particular plant or in the wider worker struggles. Mostly the changes in worker conditions appear to be that of freedom of speech. Thus they can talk and talk about radical ideas, but otherwise little appears to have changed under Chavez other than talk. I think that this may reflect the attitude of most working people in Venezuela: they still hold out hope, but real progress is minimal, and they hate to admit it especially to an outsider. These two paragraphs represent the entire interview:
In order to guarantee the triumph of this revolution, its authenticity, exploitation of the working class has to end, and workers have to have self-governance. This is the fundamental criteria of the revolution. Socialism is a society in which participation, ideas and politics have to come from the grassroots, from the workers. Chávez has declared his commitment to this, but at times he makes deals with segments of the private sector, and this isn't our idea of revolution, this isn't what we truly want.

Therefore we need to build an alternative to negotiating with capitalists, another form of pushing the revolution forward, pushing consistently for the control of workers from below. Chávez came to office in 1999, and over ten years later the concrete advances toward workers’ control have been very minimal.