… alle Verhältnisse umzuwerfen, in denen der Mensch ein erniedrigtes, ein geknechtetes, ein verlassenes, ein verächtliches Wesen ist … (Marx)

Zur Bilanz der Ära Chávez

Posted by entdinglichung - 7. März 2013

nachfolgend dokumentiert ein Beitrag von Morad Shirin von der Webseite Marxist Revival, verwiesen sei hier auch noch auf den Artikel Contradictory legacy of Hugo Chávez auf World War 4 Report … ansonsten hier noch einmal der Hinweis auf Berichte zur Ermordung des venezolanischen Indigena-Aktivisten Sabino Romero vor einigen Tagen:

Did Chavez leave a „socialist“ legacy?

There are few, if any, presidents whose death, especially after ruling for well over a decade, can cause such an outpouring of genuine grief among many thousands of citizens. Soon after it was announced that Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías had died thousands of people came into the streets weeping for the president they had lost.

Lieutenant Colonel Chávez, who was first elected President of Venezuela in February 1999 (after failing as a putschist in 1992), made a real difference in lifting the material conditions of the lives of millions of poor Venezuelans through his multi-facetted reform programme – the so-called „Bolivarian Revolution“.

Using the vast oil wealth of Venezuela to create many missions – unlike most other oil-rich countries where this revenue is nearly all appropriated by a very small minority – over the past 14 years the poverty and the illiteracy rates were drastically reduced and the health and living standards of the workers, the poor and ordinary Venezuelans were raised.

That is why the masses voted him in at three further presidential elections and came on to the streets on many occasions, particularly at the time of the 2002 coup that briefly removed Chávez, to support him and his policies.

Chávez’s record

When Chávez was elected in 1999 14.5% of the total labour force were unemployed and per capita GDP stood at $4,105. By 2009 unemployment had nearly halved (7.6%) and the per capita GDP had more than doubled to $11,404! And this took place within the context of a significant growth in the population from 23,867,000 in 1999 to 28,583,000 in 2009. Poverty also decreased: from 23.4% in 1999, the recorded rate of people in extreme poverty fell to 8.5% in 2011.

The policy of launching missions to tackle various social problems has made a significant impact on society. For example, infant mortality is now lower than in 1999, falling from a rate of 20 per 1,000 live births to a rate of 13 per 1,000 live births in 2011. This is as a direct result of the work of Mission Barrio Adentro (healthcare), Mission Mercal (food distribution) and Mission Habitat (housing).

Mission Robinson has enabled around 1.5 million adults to rid themselves of illiteracy. Some commentators have even described Venezuela as „illiteracy free“ now.

There are many other missions trying to address a wide range of problems in society. These have been financed through the oil export boom, earning Venezuela $60bn in 2011 (in 1999 oil revenues stood at $14.4bn).

But even the Chávistas cannot ignore the big problems facing today’s Venezuela:

– Inflation that stands at 31.6% (compared with 23.6% in 1999).

– The massive rise in violent crime, which reached over 16,000 murders in 2012. One NGO puts the number at nearly 21,700 (meaning a national homicide rate of 73 per 100,000, more than double the 31 per 100,000 in Colombia, which has two guerrilla wars taking place on its territory!).

Above all, the economic prospects of Venezuela do not look good when compared to other Latin American countries. This is primarily because capitalists (domestic and foreign) do not think it a ’stable‘ place for investing their capital! Net inflows of foreign direct investment stood at 2.9% of GDP in 1999, nearly double the 1.7% in 2011. Stock market capitalisation of companies listed on the Caracas Stock Exchange has shrunk from a 7.6% of GDP in 1999 to 1.6%. In addition, according to most industry estimates, Venezuela’s oil production has fallen from about 3.2 million barrels a day to around 2.5 million.

The 32% devaluation of the Bolivar in February will, of course, affect many economic indicators to the detriment of workers and the poor. Already in 2011 the per capita GDP had declined to $10,801 as Venezuela remained in recession for two years when much of Latin America recovered more quickly. Unemployment also rose to 8.6% in 2010.

This mixed bag of results is after many years of high, or even record, oil prices. The „Bolivarian Revolution“ will be in serious trouble if the price of oil dips too much.

„21st century socialism“

Although there have been many important advances in Venezuela, it is important for revolutionary Marxists to not get carried away and to be able to produce a concrete class analysis of the Venezuelan situation based on the lessons we have gained over 160 years of struggles.

In reality the „Bolivarian Revolution“ and the „21st century socialism“ that Chávez talked about were never anything more than a reform programme. Of course, revolutionary Marxists have nothing against reforms that improve conditions for workers and the masses. What we do oppose, however, is reformism. We oppose the concept of reforming and improving conditions under capitalism in the hope that somehow we will one day reach a tipping point where we arrive at socialism. This reformist approach equates socialism with nationalisation, and, consequently, the more industries a country nationalises, the more „socialist“ it becomes!

There now seems to be an entrenched belief among a wide section of the left, even perhaps the majority of the ‚Trotskyist‘, that there is some kind of an unbroken continuum from moderate left-wing politics to radical left-wing positions and continuing right the way through to the Bolshevik-Leninist tradition. This ‚received wisdom‘, however, is a total fallacy!

There is a definite dividing line (i.e., no continuum) between those who want to achieve all the demands in their programme after smashing the bourgeois state and those who think that „socialism“ is something you can achieve incrementally – starting today in bourgeois society itself. Those ‚Marxists‘ who think that „socialism“ is something that can be posed in society by a caudillo – no matter how well-meaning – and that certain reforms and the nationalisation of some industries mean that we can talk about socialism in a society, are clearly abandoning the basic lessons that our movement learnt at the time of the Paris Commune: i.e., to smash the bourgeois state.

Yet we see one of these self-styled ‚Marxist‘ leaders saying the following on BBC TV recently:

After talking about going to Caracas and meeting Chávez, Mr Alan Woods said: „Originally Chávez didn’t describe himself as a socialist, much less as a Marxist. There was no question of nationalising; it wasn’t in the programme and so on. I think he’s evolved – without wishing to exaggerate my own role – I think there were a number of factors in this.“

Chávez originally did not talk about nationalisation because he was even more confused than a rabbit caught in the headlights! He sought the counsel of a wide variety of people including the Holocaust denying Norberto Ceresole! So yes, he „evolved“.

When asked about some of the problems facing Venezuela Mr Woods said:

„There are problems, serious problems of inflation, of crime, of a certain dislocation of the economy, but I would say that the reason for that is not so much that they proceeded too fast and too far with nationalisation of the economy, but on the contrary, they’ve not proceeded fast enough or gone far enough.“ Mr Woods, described as a Marxist(!) by the BBC, is clearly making a fetish of nationalisation.

Then asked that if Marxism is the answer, then why did the Soviet Union fall and why has China embraced state capitalism. Mr Woods said: „I don’t wish to defend the Stalinist regime of Mao Zedong in the slightest degree, nevertheless what it did show, as in Russia, was that by nationalising the means of production the Chinese people at least achieved what they never had achieved in the past.“ Here we are again: nationalisation is equated with socialism! Furthermore, Mr Woods seems to have no understanding that if all the nationalising in the USSR could not help build socialism in that vast single country then how can socialism be built in a much smaller country on its own – no matter how far and fast you nationlaise!

[Interview with Alan Woods, Daily Politics, 15 February 2013.]

Inevitably Mr Woods makes no mention of workers‘ control, which is not socialism itself but the workers‘ control over the capitalists‘ capital. Workers‘ control is therefore a transitional form leading to workers‘ management and finally socialised property.

Of course, once you abandon the need to smash the bourgeois state then you also have no need for the organisations that are vital in smashing it, including a revolutionary party of the vanguard of the proletariat.

Foreign policy blunders

The domestic politics of Chávez, as influenced by the likes of Mr Woods, while full of shortcomings do not constitute his worst blunders. It is in the realm of foreign policy that the „Bolivarian government“ has committed its most serious blunders.

In addition to unnecessarily close diplomatic and trade relations with a variety of countries, particularly with dictators from other oil-producing countries like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad and so on, the Chávez government has been in a „brotherly“ relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2006. In particular, from July 2009 onwards, Chávez has shown the depths of his anti-working class and nationalist world outlook by the unstinting support he gave Ahmadinejad and the slaughter of demonstrators in Iran.

Ever since the time of Khatami’s ‚presidency‘, Iranian labour activists and socialists have been writing to Chávez informing him about the nature of the brutal dictatorship in Iran and how it differs from his regime. In November 2004, Iranian Workers‘ Solidarity Network (IWSN) wrote a polite open letter to Chávez highlighting Iranian workers‘ lack of basic trade union and other rights. This was followed by an open letter by the IRSL in July 2006 contrasting the main policies of his government and the IRI and explaining the regime’s role in the crushing of the 1978-79 revolution. There have been numerous open letters and statements (usually on the occasion of state visits) on Chávez’s close relationship with the Iranian regime since then.

Then in July 2006 Chávez visited Iran Khodro, the biggest car and vehicle manufacturing plant in the Middle East. The Iran Khodro workers had heard many positive things about Chávez and were excited to meet him in person. To begin with the workers were pleasantly surprised at the President of a country shaking hands with workers and even kissing them on the cheek. They were about read out a statement in his honour, welcoming this revolutionary leader to their factory. But before they could read it Chávez began praising Ahmadinejad, calling him his brother, calling the Iranian regime a revolutionary government and so on. The workers were totally disgusted by him. They tore up the statement and left the hall.

In July 2009, when hundreds of Iranian youth and women were killed on the streets or disappeared into the regime’s dungeons, Chávez again showed his true colours by congratulating Ahmadinejad on his victory in the ‚election‘ and was convinced that the mass protests in Iran were part of an imperialist plot that needed to be brutally suppressed!

Whether Nicolás Maduro becomes the new president or not, the fundamental problems of Venezuelan society will remain – and become exacerbated. For revolutionary Marxists Chávez’s 14 years in power have been a long succession of squandered opportunities. His death has left Venezuela with no revolutionary party, no revolutionary programme, and no revolutionary international perspective.

Morad Shirin, 6 March 2013

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