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Venezuela

‘‘Not the Conclusion’’

Farooque Chowdhury

It's not the conclusion in Venezuela. The time to infer conclusively on Venezuela on the basis of developments there is yet to arrive. It's only the beginning. One can make a minor change in Mao's famous saying, and write : It's only the beginning to have the answer to the question that whether wind from the South will dominate the Northern wind or the wind from the North will flow to the South.

However, one trend is explicit : The world is changing, the days are changing. Today, masses of people in many countries can raise their courageous voice: 'This sky is ours, this land is ours, this light is ours, resources whatever are there, are ours, ours, and ours'.

A question may follow : Why all discussions on Venezuela if it's not possible to draw a conclusion. The answer: To comprehend, to learn, to keep aware of the changing days.

How are the changing days? One can cite Dickens to present the answer:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.... [l]t was clearer than crystal to the lords... that things in general were settled for ever." (A Tale of Two Cities)

No, all is not settled; the conclusion is yet to draw. Many persons assumed in the way in the last part of the 1980s and the early-'90s. Many individuals perceived after the Iraq invasion by the US: The one pole in the globe is the all powerful; probably, the people of the world would not have minimum breathing space; now, it's only to be get dictated. But, developments showed all those assumptions and perceptions were wrong. Inner-conflict in the masters' camp in the World Trade Organization, trade war with a number of commodities, WTO's retreats in certain areas, concession to the Palestine people, unprecedented riot in France, change in the US position on the climate issue, and similar other developments showed there are two poles, not a single one. The Other pole is the people from one end to the other on this planet. And, the camp opposite to the people is full with competition and contention between capitals there, which carry conflicts. This was the global background of the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The pattern teaches: "that's not the limit, which was assumed". (Rabindra-nath Tagore, "Kaalaantar") Chavez showed this in Venezuela: The limit is unlimited; capital doesn't possess the power to draw the limit.

A few more persons assumed the spark would illuminate in Peru or Colombia in Latin America. Today, there's spark in Latin America; but not in Peru or Colombo; it's in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and the wind is blowing quickly to a wider area. (It was like, many assumed the spark will ignite in the Philippines; but it ignited in Nepal.) Development in matter and in society is uneven. Socio-political developments follow the same pattern.

And, there's scope to create space even in the face of hostile environment. It requires innovation, tact and patience. Venezuela also shows this fact. Chavez crossed the limit that Allende in Chile were to cross. His star illuminated bright although he was encircled by hostile environment. He continued widening breathing space, consolidated his beachhead. He didn't resort to adventurism while he was consolidating his position. It appeared from afar that Chavez was not taking steps during his first years in power. But now, it's being found those years were moments for gaining momentum. He consolidated alliance during the period. That was for taking steps in future. He created breathing space. He continued with widening the space. He organized alternative structures parallel to old, ineffective structures; tried to move forward through a zigzag path; continuously tried to mobilize friends around. It was like a snowball. Pressure from among the people was gaining power; situation and requirement were getting created to take measures.

Mao wrote in 1955: "The masses have boundless creative power. They can organize themselves and concentrate on places and branches of work where they can give full play to their energy; they can concentrate on production in breadth and depth and create more and more undertakings for their own well-being". (Introductory note to 'Surplus Labor Has Found a Way Out', The Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside) This was found in areas of health, cooperative, land reform in Venezuela. Chavez was moving along with the people. It appeared he was following Mao, as Mao said in one of his speeches : "(A]ct in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however, well-intentioned. It often happens that objectively the masses need a change, but subjectively they are not yet conscious of the need, not yet willing or determined to make the change. In such cases, we should wait patiently. We should not make the change until, through our work, most of the masses have become conscious of the need and are willing and determined to carry it out. Otherwise we shall isolate ourselves from the masses. Unless they are conscious and willing, any kind of work that requires their participation will turn out to be a mere formality and will fail." ("The united front in cultural work", October 30, 1944) Already people are raising demands in Venezuela. People there are taking initiatives. These made easier for Chavez to take measures.

But the economy he inherited was twisted, shaped by the Dutch Disease. The economy shaped by the disease creates speculative culture. The pattern was prevailing for a long a time before the advent of Chavez. That was accompanied by a lethargic bureaucracy, which basically served the classes hostile to the people. The state machine with which he had to begin his journey was of old age. That was organized by old lords. "[A]rmy is the chief component of state power." (Mao, "Problems of war and strategy", November 6, 1938) That army was also organized by the old lords. The judiciary was organized to safeguard interests of the old lords too. Chavez had to begin his journey with all these archaic. As a result, the journey was not easy. This led him to pass time, move step by step, bring change one by one, take very quick steps sometimes, weaken one by changing another, establish direct communication with the people, encourage the people to organize many types of organizations. Chavez and his comrades had to innovate and resort to many types of unique measures and tactics. These can be areas of study by political science. He had to reformulate the constitution. A few characteristics of and articles in the constitution are unparalleled, unique in the world. Chavez repeatedly reached the people to have mandate from them. Seeking mandates from people for so many times within so short period is unprecedented in the world. Venezuela is the example of the newly initiated participatory democracy.

However, there remain a few fundamental questions. Those questions are still unresolved. Or, the answers are still unknown to many. For example, how shall Chavez proceed by tearing down the old state machine or what shall be the class alignment? Probably, people are not acquainted with the answer that may be found. But lack of our acquaintance with the answers doesn't nullify those. Rather, one should observe and learn carefully the experiments.

By that time, a few tasks are there for the people outside of Venezuela. These include :
1.    Learn from developments in Venezuela.

2.   Initiate publicity and solidarity-oriented work on  wider scale. Mobilize workers, peasants, students, cultural and rights activists, media, and environment, health and science organizations and movements.

3.   Organize publicity movement on a wider scale on the issues of free market, imperialist globalizaiion, external loan, conditions imposed by multilateral lending organizations, and related issues.

4.   Organize demands to cancel all types of credits with interests including micro credit, which have settled heavily as a yoke on the poor households, farm workers, poor peasantry, teachers in rural areas, lower middle class.

5.   Raise demands to democratize cooperative movement, and all types of groups, associations at all levels organized by government and non-government projects/programs. Organize demands to discard the practice of centrally directing these groups /associations at grossroots levels, free these groups/associations from bureaucracy, introduce accountability, representation of grass roots-level members in the central level of these groups/associations.

6.  Re-introduce the issue of land realm in the main agenda.

7.   Organize demands and movement for easier access to information, ensuring right to information, reflect common people's aspirations in state controlled media.

Frantz Fanon made a call about half-a-century ago. Today's Venezuela reiterates that call:
"Come, brothers, we have far too much work to do.... What we want to do is to go forward all the time, night and day, in the company of Man, in the company of all men.... It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of Man.... Humanity is waiting for something other from us.... [F]or ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf".

(The Wretched of the Earth)
[This is the English translation of the last chapter "Not the conclusion" of the book in Bengali ‘Venezuela: Roopaantarer Laraai’ (Venezuela: Struggle for Transformation) by Farooque Chowdhury, Chirayata Prakashan Private Limited, Kolkata, India, August 2006. It is being translated and reproduced in view of the recent developments]

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 28, Jan 17 - 23, 2016