Friday, February 09, 2007

Venezuela´s socialism is not a European Social Democracy

Caracas, feb 08, ABN (Tessa Marsman)- At times it is complicated to figure out how they really want to design socialism in Venezuela. What really is socialism of the XXI century? One thing is sure the socialism of the Bolivarian Revolution does not resemble the reformist European socialism from the previous century «that continues to find a way to justify and include capitalism», says the influential Venezuelan opinion leader, Haiman el Troudi, in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias.

«Neither do we want a scientific socialism like they applied in east Europe in the twentieth century», explains El Troudi. «A Socialism of centralized planning in which things operate directed from above».

Socialism of the XXI century is directed from below. It is not the state that will be omnipresent in planning everything that happens in the Venezuelan society. People participate in adapting their own concrete local plan, the same way as we have seen with the formation of the community councils.

The Venezuelan Community Councils are neighbourhood watches with the power and the means to resolve local problems varying from broken sewer systems till replacement of a polluting factory. These are problems that up till now were hardly resolved by local corrupt governments in the many poor neighbourhoods of the country.

The decisiveness of these community councils will be implemented soon with the new Enabling Law that gives Chávez the power to pass decrees without deliberation them in the parliament.

The law is part of the «Five Motors» aimed at driving Venezuela towards what Chávez has termed «Socialism of the 21st Century» were first announced in early January during the swearing-in of Chávez’s new cabinet. The first motor is the «enabling» law, the second is around constitutional reform, the third, «morals and enlightenment», activated yesterday, involves a change in the educational system, while the fourth motor, «the new geometry of power» deals with the reconfiguration of state power, and the fifth motor relates to the explosion of communal power in the Communal Councils.

Chávez will use his legislative power to pass about forty new decrees that must facilitate the measures in line with the Bolivarian revolution.

Centralized power

Internationally, the Enabling Law is under a lot of criticism. Critics say it will generate a central power for the Venezuelan president.

But Juan Contras, organizer in the Coordinación Simon Bolivar, an independent socialist group that operates in a traditionally socialist shanty town of Caracas says that «a centralisation is necessary at this moment in time».

«There are international and national forces in the quality of powerful Venezuelan business people that are watching us closely and who are trying to sabotage the revolutionary process. We need to pass the mayor decisions quickly without the delay of debating them in the National Assembly».

The measurement is supposed to be temporal. «The centralisation of power in the figure of Hugo Chávez by the formation of the Unified Party and the Enabling Law must be seen as transitional. The government facilitates citizens to take over the power», says El Troudi.

«The state defines the public politics and tries to hand out a strategy to the people towards where we want to push the national development. Next, the communities start to develop local plans that have to initiate the strategic perspective of the government».

Unified Party

The preliminary result of this radical change in the south American country cannot be seen from the room of El Troudi nor can it been red in one of the eight books on socialism, but all the more in the daily life in the shanty town of Venezuela, where for the first time streets have been fixed, schools are build and neighbours work together to improve their living.

This is a mayor improvement in a society where twenty percent of the poorest have to divide four percent of the wealth of the country.

However, even in the shanty towns, the main beneficiaries of Chávez´ social programmes, criticism about the Venezuelan politics can be heard. The mayor complaint is the corruption of the bureaucratic system. And precisely, the corruption that makes that the unification of the left wing parties is supported by most Venezuelans.

«The current parties operate according to an electoral logic, there is hardly a connection between them and the public», says El Troudi.

Juan Contras agrees with him. «What we need is honest people and active members that are elected from the bases and the shanty towns, people that know the communities from the inside out. Not career politicians that rule the parties», he adds.

At the same time this is exactly the doubt that some social organizations have now the new party is ready to take off.

«In my neighbourhood, I know who fights for our rights. I know who is aware of the projects the community. If there is no water I know who will help me with that to fight for it. We don´t need a president to tell us who has to be part of our party, neither the existing parties”. This person will be the one I´d propose to be active in the Unified Party», says Juan Contras.

The two largest leftist parties Fatherland for All (PPT), Podemos and the Movement of the Fifth Republic, have already agreed to join. But there is also resistance from within the left coalition. The Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) is still deliberating if they want to go blindly into a party of wish they don´t know the structure nor the program.

Besides all the respect that the PCV has for Chávez, their critics come from a fierce communist ideology. Jerónimo Carrera Damas, the president of the PCV explains in an interview with the newspaper Universal. “The social projects of Chávez are part of the Christian ideology of handing out alms. I petty my fellow human being that is sick or unemployed and in need for me to give him something.

The Communist politician calls this Christian socialism, instead of a Marxist socialism, one that is based on working, «based on the idea that the one that does not work, does not eat».

«For this reason, It will be difficult to accept the invitation to be part of the Unified Party», says Carrera Damas. We respect Chávez a lot but we think that this country still needs a separate party that defends the rights of the workers. Especially, because in Venezuela a union of any significance does not exist».

Nationalization of electricity and telephone

One of the consequences of the enabling law that gives the president of Venezuela a eighteen months long power to pass decrees, is the nationalization of Cantv telefónica and Caracas Electricity (EDC).

«Strategical means of production should belong to the state. The ownership of all the strategic activity should be taken over by the state. The exploitation of oilfields and mines and the generation of fundamental primary products should be in the hands of the state. Air and water cannot be privatized per definition».

Under the rule of Chávez companies like this are organized in a mixed company model in which the Venezuelan state owns at least fifty-one of the interests.

The reason that similar companies are not fully state owned is that «our revolution is a passive one», according to El Troudi. «We came from a capitalist tradition and we cannot change from one day to another».