There are beautiful waterfalls and mountains. There is rich surf, sand, and sun. But nowadays the biggest attraction is revolution.
My first and arguably most personally surprising encounter with the Bolivarian Revolution was at the Ministry for Popular Participation, which was created in accord, I was told, with [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez's desire "that the people should take power."Of course (smacks forehead)! A new kind of society!
I asked the officials we interviewed, "What does that mean, that the people should take power?" After noting thousands of years of "empires obstructing people from participating in politics," all culminating in "the North American empire," the official said the "U.S. has had 200 years of representative government, but in your system people turn over control to others." Instead, in Venezuela, "we humbly are proposing a system where people hold power in a participatory and protagonist democracy. We want a new kind of democracy to attain a new kind of society."
Lots of little circles
On the wall was a diagram of their aims. It had lots of little circles, then other larger ones in another layer, and so on. The idea, they said, "was to establish numerous local grassroots assemblies or councils of citizens where people could directly express themselves." These local councils would be the foundational components of "a new system of participatory democracy."
So how's that working out?
We visited barrios, which were gigantic stretches of hillside covered with small shack-like homes, and we saw intermittently the newly constructed small but clean medical clinics the [allegedly 20,000] Cuban doctors [sent by Castro] worked from. We also heard about a plan for eye care, even offering free eye operations of diverse kinds, 500,000 operations over ten years, to poor U.S. citizens. The Venezuelans would provide the transportation. The Cubans would do the surgery. Having eye problems myself, I listened closely, smiling at the thought.
Critical thinkers working for the transformation of society. I like it! But what if a critical thinker's critical thinking leads that critical thinker to decline (politely, of course) to work for the transformation of society? What then? Huh?
Workers councils ruled ["Bolivarian University" in Caracas, which is situated in buildings "liberated" from the oil industry]. The government minister of education became its Rector. In time, he overrode the council [sic], determining instead that there would be only meetings of smaller groups, and that he would only interact with representatives from those. . . .But the pedagogy of the new university is, I learned by interviewing a professor there, very innovative, emphasizing serving diverse communities by students having to do projects at the grassroots, having to relate their studies to social conditions and needs, and having grading being a shared task for students, faculty, and community residents.
"They will learn ethics, social responsibility, respect for a Latin American and Caribbean identity, solidarity, respect [the professor said]. The professional produced by this institution will work for the transformation of society. She will be a critical thinker who can stimulate others and generate questions.
And the media:
VIVE TV is a new station created, like Bolivarian University, by the Chavez government. . . .The widest salary difference, from the head of the company to people who cleaned up, was three to one, but the new payment policy, being steadily if slowly enforced, was to attain equal hourly pay for all by periodically raising wages of those at the bottom until they reached parity. . . .Yeah, constructive.
VIVE takes no ads, "to avoid being controlled." There is actually, on the shows, much criticism of the government, since the shows convey grass-roots opinions. But this criticism, unlike that on mainstream private stations, is honest and heartfelt, not manufactured. Rather than trying to create dissension, it is constructive.
Oh, and, since this is Michael Albert, how's the economy doing?
Because when you've got class consciousness, you've got everything.
[A "trade union worker"] told us that "five or six years ago the typical Venezuelan worker would not exhibit any class consciousness, but now the Bolivarian revolution was awakening class consciousness not only in workers, but in all people." . . .
I also asked this trade union leader, who was explicitly responsible for international relations, about links with movements and unions in the U.S. She reported Venezuelan Chavista unions having links to the "AFL-CIO in California, some grass-roots unions, and the antiwar movement," but not with the national AFL-CIO because they are still giving money to those imposing old bureaucracy and fomenting coups."
Just a'quiverin' with loveAlbert reaches a few conclusions, Venezuela-wise:
(1) The Bolivarian movement, and in particular President Hugo Chavez, is pushing the population leftward. Even more, the Bolivarian movement, and particularly President Hugo Chavez, is seeking to replace old capitalist forms with new forms that they call anti-capitalist, participatory, socialist, and Bolivarian, among other labels."Congenial and inspiring." "A highly unexpected benefit." "A key source of anti-authoritarian influence." Albert is dictator-fellating turd. He finishes:
(2) The Bolivarians' unusual transitional approach has as its vanguard aspect that the Bolivarian leadership is ideologically and programmatically far ahead of its populace and trying to get that populace to move further and faster than it is alone inclined to. [Yeah, real unusual.]
(3) The centrality of a single leader, at least that it is Hugo Chavez [sic], seems to be a highly unexpected benefit. Chavez, so far, has not just been congenial and inspiring, audacious and courageous, willing to step outside every box and implement program after program, experimenting and learning, but has also shown remarkable restraint in utilizing the accoutrements of central power and has even been a key source of anti-authoritarian influence.
I left Venezuela inspired and very hopeful. Venezuela looks to me like Uncle Sam's worst nightmare. I was humbled by Bolivarian ingenuity and steadfastness and by my own continued citizenship in the world's most rogue and brutal nation, against which I and other radicals have had such limited organizing success. Hopefully my country can follow Venezuela's lead rather than crushing its aspirations. Hopefully, citizens in the U.S. can make that happen. Officials won't, of course.Now that's just about the most pathetic thing I've ever read: "the world's most rogue and brutal nation, against which I and other radicals have had such limited organizing success." Wait, did I say pathetic? I meant "hilarious"! Crush aspirations! Crush aspirations! Crush aspirations!
(Credits: Page on the treatment of Russian intellectuals from the Library of Congress's Soviet archives exhibit; picture of guy lying in small but clean "Bolivarian street hospital" from, not very oddly, TheRealCuba.com.)
Update: Eat Lima Beans: They're a key source of anti-authoritarian influence.