Venezuelan Socialism

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In Venezuela the people reacted to class disparity and foreign exploitation of their oil.  In the U.S. the masses watch their pay being eroded, their retirement benefits cuts, and both social security, Medicare under attack, and a Congress in bed with big business, whom they are supposed to supervise on behalf of the masses.  We have gone a long way since the Great Depression, increasing wealth based on increasing productivity, however, the share of that wealth has been diminishing, as also has the political voice of the masses in support of their own welfare. 

VENEZUELA: A new kind of socialism

Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter, Caracas

“One important idea that [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez had was to give power to the poor people. In the classic fight between the classes, the rich people have all the money and control of the government. The socialism that we are trying to build in this country at this time is an attempt to give power to the poor people, the excluded sector - which includes the poor, the workers, the professionals, the housewives, the indigenous people”, Dr Marcelo Alfonso, director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine at the Central University of Venezuela, explained to Green Left Weekly.


Alfonso has been a lifelong left-wing activist. He was a former member of the MIR (Revolutionary Movement of the Left) and a candidate for rector of the university in elections held in 2004.   Chavez “was not the first to talk about socialism in Venezuela. In fact, historical figures like Simon Bolivar and Simon Rodriguez gave a kind of glimpse about socialism nearly 200 years ago”, Alfonso said.  “The problem was that when Bolivar died all of those ideas disappeared for over a century. In the beginning of his talking about 'socialism of the 21st century’, Chavez recalled those early ideas of socialism.”  “At the moment”, Alfonso explained, “the government is proposing the creation of Consejos Communales (community councils), to give real power to the base in the communities. The new law under discussion will make it the responsibility of the state to give money to these councils so that they can develop their work and solve social problems.”  This idea of community democracy is the main difference between the socialism being developed in Venezuela and the system in the former “socialist states”, Alfonso explained. Another difference is that there is not one political party forming the government, but a number of parties. “There is a movement towards unity, but it is only a project at this stage”, he added.  “There is general unity around support for our democratic constitution, and the driving force of the people behind it. The task is going to be difficult because the situation is so diverse. But, despite the opposition of a tiny minority, the process is going ahead.”

Asked about the link between the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and Latin America as a whole, Alfonso talked about the ideas advanced by Bolivar in the early 19th century of bringing the Latin American people together, as a “mix of all the peoples” - Europeans, blacks and indigenous people - in the fight against Spanish colonialism. “Now the enemy has changed; now the empire is the United States. But Chavez uses the same kind of idea as Bolivar: unite all the people of Latin America against the empire.  “We have to be proud that Chavez is the one who is showing the lead and confronting Bush. And, at the international level, the idea of socialism that we are building in Venezuela is spreading to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and elsewhere in Latin America. If the Bolivarian revolution is going to grow into these countries, it is in the hands of the ordinary people, because they are going to be in power. The people of Latin America are watching and listening to Chavez, and see Venezuela as a good example.”  Discussing the importance of international solidarity for the Venezuelan revolution in the face of attacks from the United States, Alfonso said: “We have to accept the possibility that the US could invade Venezuela.” Describing the “show of force” by the US military in the Caribbean as it prepares for naval exercises, he said: “More than 65,000 marines, 75 airplanes; a lot of military power is being displayed there. And the problem is that all the countries of Latin America will be represented there - except for Venezuela and Cuba. This clearly defines the empire’s position.  “We need all the solidarity around the world we can get, and it must not be after the invasion, but before it. The crucial thing is to give information to the people about what is really happening here, and to warn of the danger of US intervention.  “I believe the US may use the Colombian army or paramilitary forces to create a provocation, or it may use Guyana - which belongs to the Commonwealth. Guyana is a very sensitive area for us. We have a historical claim to more than half the territory of Guyana. We have to be very careful, because Washington is claiming that Chavez is planning to invade Guyana.

“The new, eighth star in the Venezuelan flag belongs to Guyana, which Bolivar proclaimed more than 150 years ago, when that area was asked to join Venezuela at the Declaration of Angostura.  “The best thing is to create a huge movement around the world, and especially in the case of Australia, to explain that Guyana may be used as an excuse to involve the Commonwealth in an aggression against Venezuela. They may produce some simulated conflict between Guyana and Venezuela, and then say, 'Venezuela is attacking the Commonwealth’. Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair may call on Australia and Canada to join in the conflict with Venezuela - maybe not invasion, but diplomatic and economic sanctions, perhaps.”

As a final message to Australian supporters of Venezuela, Alfonso said: “My last call is to please take note of what is happening in Venezuela. We have to really break through the grip of the mass media and consumer society. In the end, to save the earth, to save humanity, we need to develop a new way of living.  “This is a call for socialism internationally, in other countries. Because we have poor people, marginalised people in every country, we have to think about how to build a new society - to stop killing each other to survive, and to cooperate in order to live.”

From Green Left Weekly, April 12, 2006.
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