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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Inept Government Leadership Caused “Inadequate Triumph” in Elections [Venezuela]

by Marea Socialista [a left-wing committee] from Venezuela Analysis

The recent elections in Venezuela produced right-wing gains in their parliament (National Assembly). However, Hugo Chavez's party (PSUV) and others on the left maintained majority control. 

Many on the left voice increasing criticism of the Bolivarian government of Chavez which has promised much and produced only marginal gains for working people. According to the opinions behind this article Venezuela is plagued with a bureaucracy which wants to, at best secure the status quo, and at worst wants to restore oligarchic control.
These bureaucrats, specialists in converting easy victories into ridiculous failures, are the same people who dismissed the experiences of worker control, the same people who didn’t want to vote for a new labour law, the same ones who pass from clique to clique in order to hold onto the best positions in the government, to obtain the highest privileges. They are the ones who aren’t bothered by the murder of hundreds of social, rural, and worker leaders, and cover up the corrupt right and boss-hired murders with impunity. They are the ones who have public employees’ collective agreements stalled, among others. They are the ones who accuse those who struggle for their rights as being counter-revolutionary, while they themselves live with a similar or higher level than the piti-yankee bourgeoisie and oligarchs who they say they are fighting against.
 "Clientelism" to which the article refers is a tradition among office holders in Latin America.

There have been some socialists on the left in various countries that have since the beginning dismissed the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela as just another manifestation of caudilloism that has characterized many populist type governments in Latin America. Although I have had some doubts about the Venezuelan revolution, I've tried to keep an open mind on the subject.

My two-week visit to Venezuela in December of 2005 did not resolve my doubts about their Revolution. I was with a group tour which featured visits to co-ops, new popular institutions such as community radio stations and banks for low income people, and government officials. While impressed with the former, I was particularly unimpressed with the latter. 

I remember especially my encounter with one high government official to whom I asked about the newly proposed popular councils which were much celebrated in various left-wing sources in North America. At first I thought there might be some problems with translation, but I soon became convinced that he hardly knew anything about them nor had much interest in them. I regard such grassroots social units as an essential foundation on which to build a new society that promotes social justice. They are the "bottom" to an inverted hierarchical structure that requires power to be exercised from the bottom up.

There are many problems that newly established revolutionary governments face. The problem of regressive bureaucracies has been a major one. The most famous, of course, was the Soviet revolution in Russia. Because of a shortage of trained government specialists on the left, the Russian revolutionaries had to resort to using many from the former Czarist regime who carried with them the old authoritarian, class attitudes of the former rulers. 

This phenomenon is similar to a larger cultural one where old attitudes and practices are still in the minds of many people, revolutionary as well as others, and the difficulty this creates with efforts to establish a new society.