Que se vayan todos

If you have the time to set aside, I’d strongly encourage you to read Socialism to the Highest Bidder, written by Nachie of the Red & Anarchist Action Network (2006-07-11). I mention the If because the time involved could be considerable; it’s a long and detailed essay, but rewarding if you’re interested in the topic. Here are some of the things that I took away from reading it.

When organized oil workers went on strike in 2003, Chávez and his revolutionary bureaucracy took the opportunity to fire 18,000 workers, to hire scabs and political favorites to cross the picket lines and replace them, and to create a new yellow-dog union federation that would support the official line of the government and the government-owned oil company:

The most important effect of the lockout was that it allowed Chávez to fire 18,000 PDVSA employees for walking off the job, including most of its technical staff of geologists, geophysicists and reservoir engineers, and then refill those posts with political supporters (this is the point at which the new PDVSA became the people’s). In this process all forms of budding worker’s self-management were quickly rolled back under the assurance that PDVSA now belonged to the people. Workers also managed to reoccupy a handful of other small factories, which are now being absorbed by the state and tokenized as symbols of co-management and glorious revolution. … The much-vaunted officialist UNT, (National Union of Workers) which was set up in April of 2003 in response to the collaboration of the old CTV (Confederation of Workers of Venezuela) with the bosses’ lockout, is certainly doing the bulk of the labor organizing in the country, but even their efforts are limited in scope and have stalled over infighting, negotiations dealing with how exactly to make the union as participative as possible, and a lack of follow-through on the militant tactics such as factory occupations that they were supposedly to be advancing.

— Nachie, Red & Anarchist Action Network (2006-07-11): Venezuela, Socialism to the Highest Bidder

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

This massive campaign of strike-breaking, union scabbing, and union-busting, which would have done Frick or Carnegie proud, is passed off today by compliant State Socialists in the U.S. as if it were a triumph for the working class. Meanwhile, in Argentina and then increasingly throughout South America, workers began to reclaim abandoned factories, and to run them under participatory, rotating worker self-management (autogestión); when Chávez and his revolutionary bureaucracy took notice of the trend, they started to heavily promote their own favored alternative: government expropriation of factories and the institution of co-management (cogestión), in which workers’ associations pay for the government’s help by ceding a substantial share of ownership (often up to 51%) and management (often filled by political appointees) to the Venezuelan government. The excuse for this gutting of worker management in favor of state bossism is that by putting the factory partly under government command, co-management ensures that it will produce in the interests of the public or the nation — as those interests are defined by detached government bureaucrats, rather than by the actual members of the public or the nation who happen to be engaged in doing all the work of making, buying, or using the factory’s products.

When Chávez, former leader of a military coup d’etat, rose to power, he took it upon himself to send out the military in virtually every one of his government welfare projects, and rather than altering, containing, or abolishing the existing military and the state security forces, he and his bureaucracy have taken deliberate efforts to militarize the civilian police forces and integrate paramilitary training and discipline throughout the government schooling system that they have been so assiduously expanding and remaking in their own Bolivarian image:

There has been absolutely no real judicial reform in the Fifth Republic, and as long as Chávez himself refuses to address this issue the rest of the government, for whom politics is merely a balancing act in which you do your best to appear in complete agreement with anything the president says, will continue to do nothing. In fact the Bolivarian Revolution has given the state a softer, friendlier image, which has encouraged an unprecedented rise in urban crime by those who expect to be able to get away with more. This has in turn been used by the government as a justification for the strengthening of the pre-existing repressive apparatus, which in April culminated in the chief of Caracas’ police being replaced with a FAN brigadier general.

For all the talk of tribunals against impunity to investigate state repression, these bodies have been completely stacked with members of the National Guard and political armed forces. On January 30th in Barquisimeto, a committee of the victims and families of police abuse released a communiqué condemning the tribunals; these people guarantee the social peace, generate justice, and therefore the state cannot dismantle its own gang, it will never judge, much less condemn, itself. The continuation of police abuse is one of the most underplayed aspects of the Bolivarian Government, especially considering the lack of responses to it. In March, 21 year old Iván Padilla Alliot was severely beaten by the DISP and told that he was going to be disappeared after he ran in front of a government convoy while crossing through Caracas’ hectic traffic. Only when it was discovered that he was the son of the Vice Minister of Culture was he released. If such a mistake is possible, one can only guess as to what happens when the pigs grab someone who’s father is not a politician.

While Chávez speaks almost endlessly about his plans to benignly integrate the armed forces into society, in practice it is Venezuelan society that is forced to take on the nature of the armed forces. Although Article 61 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, Articles 130 and 134 then declare it obligatory to defend the patria. Among the largest changes we now see the country undergoing is the implementation of obligatory pre-military programs in all schools, which seek to indoctrinate the youth with a bizarre blend of nationalism and socialism (sound familiar?). These programs will of course be complimented by a wide variety of centrally planned — and approved — education initiatives, especially through the new Bolivarian University. This institution, which Chávez claims now hosts more students than all the independent ones put together, is rigorously controlled by the state so that all activism, cultural activities, and studies undertaken by the students fit into the prefabricated mold of Bolivarian Socialism (Alan Woods, for example, being a typical guest speaker). As a result one can expect to see significant deterioration in the quality and autonomy of student struggle, which had previously characterized the universities as traditional points of resistance throughout all of the past regimes. Meanwhile, like so many other vertically-implemented projects of the state, the Bolivarian University has been failing to live up to it’s promise: the professor’s union has publicly said that student desertion is at over 40%, and attendance statistics have been manipulated by the government. The curriculum has also had to be completely redesigned three times in the past four years.

— Nachie, Red & Anarchist Action Network (2006-07-11): Venezuela, Socialism to the Highest Bidder

In summary:

The Bolivarian Revolution and Chávez as a personality are increasingly intolerant of criticism, and even more so of projects that fall outside of their control. The much-lauded and incredibly tiny urban garden projects in Caracas, which were deliberately dressed up with things like premium fertilizer to look more impressive in the run-up to the FSM, actually predate the government but have been turned into clients of the state with the promise of funding. This has happened to untold numbers of community projects and autonomous organizations, with those who refuse to collaborate inevitably being called golpistas. As Humberto Decarli explained to me, Chávez’ interest in Cuba is not so much an ideological common ground as it is an admiration for the raw efficiency of the repressive mechanisms that have allowed Castro to remain in power for so long, and a key part of this is the absorption or dismantling of all institutions and movements outside of the state.

— Nachie, Red & Anarchist Action Network (2006-07-11): Venezuela, Socialism to the Highest Bidder

Or, in other words, under the name and banner of a socialist and revolutionary movement, the emerging Boli-bureaucracy has used subsidy, co-optation, conversion, and violent repression to devour any and every independent project or association, whenever, wherever, and however it could get them into its ravenous maw. All too many Potemkin-tour Progressives and authoritarian Leftists have deluded themselves into believing that this process of the endlessly self-aggrandizing State bureaucracy engorging itself on the living remains of industrial and civil society, is something that Leftist, grassroots, and populist tendencies ought for some reason to support; the Libertarian Left — i.e., the real, anarchistic Left, unencumbered by the reactionary apparatus of Authority — knows better than that.

Government! Ah! we shall still have enough of it, and to spare. Know well that there is nothing more counter-revolutionary than the Government. Whatever liberalism it pretends, whatever name it assumes, the Revolution repudiates it: its fate is to be absorbed in the industrial organization.

— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1851), Reaction Causes Revolution, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century

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5 replies to Que se vayan todos Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Serafina

    Note: I’ve relocated the discussion with Serafina, which began in comments on this post, over to the topically-related comments thread on GT 2007-12-17: December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. —R.G., 18 March 2008.

    Here’s an off-topic question, RadGeek: what is your stance on prostitution and pornography? …

  2. Anon73

    Or, in other words, under the name and banner of a socialist and revolutionary movement, the emerging Boli-bureaucracy has used subsidy, co-optation, conversion, and violent repression to devour any and every independent project or association, whenever, wherever, and however it could get them into its ravenous maw.

    I think part of the reason for the excessive praise from some quarters is that many leftists feel like things are so bad that they’ll support anybody, even someone like Chavez, if it means fighting injustice and inequality. I guess this is “Chomsky redux”, since he also supports authoritarians when they happen to suit his immediate political goals…

  3. Rad Geek

    Anon73,

    I’m sure that’s true for some people, and in particular for professed anarchists who support Chávez.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that plenty of the Potemkin-tour Progressives and counter-globalistas who are running interference for the Chávez regime are even more enthusiastic about the whole thing. His authoritarianism is frequently outright denied, usually on the idiot notion that if he is fighting off other authoritarians he can’t be authoritarian himself, and some of his most authoritarian measures (e.g. the large-scale denigration of worker-ownership and promotion of cogestión as an alternative, or the union scabbing and brutal strike-breaking at the government-owned oil company) are the ones that are trumpeted as real triumphs for the working class against the oligarchs (leaving Chávez, who is neither a member of the working class nor one of the ancien régime to be, what? the walking incarnate Will of the People, I guess). I fear that what we are dealing with are not so much lesser-evilists, but rather true believers. Largely because the vast majority of Progressives and state Leftists have not yet accepted the fact that the State exists as part of their analysis.

  4. Serafina

    Oh, and as for Chavez: frankly, I think the sympathy is because his enemies are often far worse than he is, and at least he gives the indigent of Venezuela “bread and bricks,” as his detractors put it.

  5. Serafina

    (sorry for the spam!)

    The other thing is that Chavez is so demonized in American press, and for reasons relating to his use of oil, that it’s really frighteningly reminiscent of the treatment of Saddam Hussein and Ahmadenijad. And there was in fact a US-backed attempted coup against him. So you have to wonder if the “Chavez BAD!” stuff in the media is meant to make us more receptive to…well, probably not WAR, but aggressive and possibly cruel actions of some sort in the name of opposing Chavez. And so leftists reflexively take a positive stance towards him.

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