Lula Watch: Focusing on the Latin American Left – Vol.5 – No.4

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Looking at Venezuela’s New Socialism

An “explosion of communal power” is going on in Venezuela. It consists of the creation of 18,000 “communal councils” of communist-anarchist inspiration that will replace city government, councils and even functions of the federal government. Chavez and his followers have compared them to the soviets of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the Paris Commune of 1871

Venezuela is suffering from an avalanche of dictatorial measures to control the powers of the State, the media, education and private enterprise. A recently approved “The Enabling Law” allows President Chavez to govern by decree, with practically absolute powers.

In this context, something that Chavez himself has called the “Venezuelan atomic bomb” has almost gone unnoticed: The creation of 18,000 “communal councils” – self-managing communities of communist-anarchist inspiration that will replace municipal governments and city councils, as well as some functions of the federal government. This phenomenon has been called an “explosion of communal power.”

“Communal power” is being instituted by a legislative commission now studying a reform of the Constitution. Chavez has compared them to the soviets of Russia’s Communist Revolution of October 1917 and the Paris Commune of 1871. Some of his opponents even see the “communal councils” as germs of a process analogous to the one carried out by Pol Pot in Cambodia, as was recently reported at length by Simon Romero, special correspondent of The New York Times.

In 2006 Chavez allotted $ 900 million to the Venezuelan soviets and announced that in 2007 that money will be doubled to $1.8 billion. Some critics point out that the so-called communal councils will strengthen the Venezuelan dictatorship even more. Moreover, there are indications that the process, which Chavez calls “twenty-first century socialism,” will move toward the self-destruction of the State. That would be a step toward the final anarchic and self-managing goal of communism, in which, as Marx put it, the State will become a museum piece.

David Velasquez, 28, the new minister of People’s Power for Participation and Social Development – the first member of the Venezuelan Communist Party to hold a cabinet post – says that his goal is to make the whole Venezuelan State apparatus, as we know it, “unnecessary” by replacing its functions with “communal councils.” This and other previous statements in the same sense were also quoted in Simon Romero’s report in The New York Times.

Venezuela moves toward the abyss, driven by a kind of “syncretic” socialism – a contradictory and ambiguous mix of religion, anarchism, indigenism, post-Gramscian strategies from the World Social Forum and communism. This is headed toward the dissolution not only of the State, but of society itself.

This “syncretic” socialism is the new hope of the leaders of the World Social Forum and international anarchism. In a certain sense, this “syncretic” socialism is the opposite of the over-the-top rationalism of the so-called scientific materialism, which served as foundation for the old-style State socialism. By strengthening communal soviets and corroding the functions of the State, “syncretic” socialism as a goal transcends Venezuela and is now spreading to countries like Bolivia and Ecuador.

The “moderate” chief of staff of the Brazilian presidency, Luiz Dulci, an aide to the “neo-moderate” President Lula, explained at the recent Seventh World Social Forum in Nairobi that for strategic and political reasons his government cannot display a “radical” profile. However, on the other hand, the role of the so-called social movements is to bring pressure on public opinion and governments so they will move to the left, according to Mr. Dulci.

At the twelfth Forum of São Paulo, Marco Aurelio García, a high-ranking aide of President Lula for international affairs, approved the “great destabilizations” created by the “social movements” in order to “break the hegemonies” and to expand “democracy” on the continent.

This is, therefore, clearly a strategy in which the “neo-moderates” and the “radicals” each play their own role inside this same strategy.

From this standpoint, the role of the new Venezuelan soviets, the Brazilian “social movements” and the Landless Movement (MST), as well as the many networks of Latin American NGOs appears to be clear. These revolutionary pressure groups would provide a pretext for seemingly moderate governments to give in gradually and move their countries toward the disintegration of their institutions.

While all of the above is a far-reaching plan, we should not be discouraged, quite the contrary. Unmasking the central line of this advanced revolutionary plan for Latin America – a plan that has been brewing in the depths of sociopolitical life – acts as an antidote. It also contributes to correct the cross-eyed political view of certain analysts who interpret the march of the left based on old thinking models useful to analyze the classic communism of the twentieth century, but insufficient to discern the new strategies of twenty-first century anarchic socialism.


On the new anarcho-socialist strategies and the directing role of the World Social Forum, cf. “Venezuela: Chavez and ‘Syncretic’ Socialism,” LulaWatch, Dec. 9, 2006; “The Caracas World Social Forum: a ‘Topography’ of the Left” and “Forum of São Paulo, Latin America and Crisis in the Brazilian Left,” Destaque Internacional, Feb. 21, 2006 and July 11, 2005.

Cf. also “Chávez promete US$ 1,8 bi para conselhos comunais” [Chavez Promises $1.8 billion for Communal Councils], Folha de S. Paulo, Jan. 19, 2007; Paulo Moreira Leite, “Chávez: ‘Todo o poder à comunidade” [“Chavez: All Power to the Community”], O Estado de S. Paulo, Jan. 22, 2007; Simón Romero, “Memo From Caracas in Venezuela, Chavismo Is Dissected by Fans and Foes,” The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2007; and Luciano Máximo, “Governo não pode ser radical, avisa Dulci” [“Government Cannot Be Radical, Warns Dulci”], O Estado de S. Paulo, Jan. 24, 2007.

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