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Washington Post on obstacles to socialism in Venezuela

On the Green Left Weekly discussion list, Stuart Munckton posted an article from the Washington Post entitled "In Venezuela, obstacles to 21st century socialism".

He made these comments on the article:
No doubt these are very real problems hit on in this article, but it also seems a certain amount of wishful thinking underpinned by a strong dose of cynacism in the ability of ordinary people to take the reigns of a society and achieve deep-going change. Wishful thinking because the revolution continues to advance and the economic horizon remains positive - although with the real problem of manufactored food shortages (although it is hard to get a feel for how serious this is from the corporate media). Plus politically the opposition remains weak and completely ineffectual.

However the problems highlighted — considered by the writer from a cynical point of view to be insurmountable and permanent, because the Venezuelan people, presumably as a result of some gene, are incurably selfish and materialistic etc etc. — are the real problems to be overcome. The question of how to develop popular consciousness to create conditions for a new society is the key one, and it is subjected to a range of contradictory pressures.

On the one hand, the new education system and new values, combined with the political radicalisation and empowering of people, pushes in one direction. The government is consciously pushing this forward, it is one of the five motors to advance the revolution and an example of intent is the decree to force bosses to provide four hours of paid education. On the other hand the "muck of ages", as Marx put it — the values of the old society — are not easily gotten rid of, and are reinforced by the old economic forms and social relations that still dominate.

However these old forms can't be overcome without the transformation of Venezuelan working people into revolutionary actors, so the struggle occurs simultanously, the struggle for new economic models that break with capitalism along with a push to transform conciousness into a social consciousness away from capitalism's greed and individualism. The results are contradictory and uneven, and this article highlights the negative, which is real and threatens the process.

But it ignores the advances and the potential. The revolution, unlike pretty much all previous revolutions, has more breathing space to resolve these problems in favour of the revolution as a result of the economic growth, the relatively high level of economic development to begin with compared, say, to Nicargua or Russia destroyed by Civil War.

Also part of what makes this revolution such a crucial one to learn from for socialists is no other revolution has managed to advance in this way without much more serious and devestating attack from the counterrevolution, due to a number of factors. The weakness of US imperialism bogged down in Iraq, the reliance of US imperialism on Venezuelan oil, and the complete discrediting and isolation of the internal counterrevolution as a result of its failed attempts to destroy the popular government, all give the Venezuelan revolution a unique breathing space to attempt to carry the revolution out by involving the broadest layers of people and tin the most, deepest, democratic way possible.

I think the reality is the opposite of the author's claim that "the idea of creating a 'new man' and a classless society has even less chance of success in Venezuela than past attempts in other countries, from Russia to Nicaragua and Cuba." (Of course, in the standard practice of the corporate media, the author, Bernd Debusmann, doesn't actually say this is his opinion, rather that of the ever present "some analysts". All that means is he has interviewed at least two other people who agree with him to give his opinion the veneer of respectability. Of course "some analysts" in Venezuela also strongly disagree and have the opposite view, but that doesn't fit with the political prejudices of the author, and the corporate press that buys his services, so it doesn't get a mention.)

The problems raised in this article can not be brushed aside, as they are real, but it is important to realise it is also completely one-sided, ignoring the enormous strengths the revolution has in order to engage in wishful thinking to exaggerate obstacles that the corporate media hope will stop it, combined with a deep cynacism about the ability of ordinary people to vercome these obstacles. I mean, one "analyst" claims Venezuelan people "are not inclined to work for the community", when community-based social missions, involving millions in different forms, are exploding!

This is a battle between old and new consciousness. Only about 50 Venezuelan doctors agreed to volunteer for Barrio Adentro when the government formed it in 2003, but thousands of the first Venezuelan medical students to work in this social mission have graduated from the Bolviarian University, and thousands more are still completing their study to do so. The people doing this were largely previously exlcuded from university, their inclusion is tied with development of social consciounse, bound up with them not simply taking advantage of policies of social inclusion, working themselves towards that goal.

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