Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

The oligarchs and their cronies are afraid…merkel

Brilliant non-technical talk.

Yanis Varoufakis, will be Syriza’s new finance minister. He has been a brilliant critique of EU economic policy for many years and is a splendid choice for the difficult task at hand: radically reforming the European Union’s political-economy.

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/10/new-york-times-claims-democratic-leaders-latin-america-military-dictators.html
Good piece on the usual imperialist crap in the New York Times

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/is-venezuela-burning/ 

jacobinmag.com

Is Venezuela Burning?

2.25.14

Only a deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution can save it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.13.18 AM

Flickr / Gaz

For over a week now, the world’s press and media have carried images of a Venezuela in flames. Burning buses, angry demonstrations, public buildings under siege. But the pictures are rarely explained or placed in any kind of context, and people are left to assume that this is just one more urban riot, one more youth rebellion against the crisis, like those in Greece and Spain.

The reality is both very different and far more complex. Venezuela, after all, is a society that declared war on neoliberalism fifteen years ago.

Caracas, where this series of events began, is a divided city. Its eastern part is middle class and prosperous; to the west, the population is poorer. The political divide reflects exactly the social division. Leopoldo Lopez, who has been a leader of this new phase of violent opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro, was mayor of one of the eastern districts. Together with another prominent right wing anti-chavista, Maria Corina Machado, he had issued a call for an open public meeting the previous Sunday to demand the fall of the government. Youth Day, on February 12, provided an opportunity to bring out students to march, demonstrate, and occupy the streets.

The majority of the burning barricades, however, were built in middle class areas. And the students building them came from either the private universities or the state university which had largely excluded poorer students in recent times. There was almost nothing happening in the poorer areas to the west.

In more recent days, the class character of the demonstrations has become clearer. The government’s new bus system, offering clean and safe travel at low prices, has been attacked, 50 of them on Friday alone. The Bolivarian University, offering higher education to people excluded from the university system, was besieged Friday — though the demonstrators failed to get in to wreck it. And in several places Cuban medical personnel, who run the Barrio Adentro health system, have been viciously attacked. In one very curious development, a wonderful sculpture in the city of Barquisimeto by the communist architect Fruto Vivas, is now being defended by Chavistas after an attempt to destroy it.

Maduro and his cabinet have responded by denouncing the increasingly violent confrontations as organized by fascists and financed and supported by the United States. And there are certainly extreme elements involved, actively engaged in trying to destabilize the situation. They include paramilitaries linked to the drug trade, whose presence has grown in this overly-weaponized country.

But why has the Right chosen this particular moment to take to the streets? In part, it is a response to what is seen as the weakness of the Maduro government, and specifically of Maduro himself. It is no secret that behind the façade of unity, there is a struggle for power between extremely wealthy and influential groups within government — a struggle that began to intensify in the months before Chavez’s death. The military presence in government has grown dramatically, and they are largely controlled by the group around Diosdado Cabello. The head of the oil corporation and Vice President for the Economy, Rafael Rodriguez, has enormous economic power in his hands.

At the same time, there is a battle for power within the Right. All of the prominent leaders, including Leopoldo Lopez, Cristina Machado, and Capriles, come from the wealthiest sections of the bourgeoisie. But they are competing. Lopez and Machado are pursuing what some call (referring to Chile 1972-3) “a soft coup”: economic destabilization plus a continuous mobilization on the streets to deepen the government’s weakness.

Capriles, however, has been hesitant to support the demonstrations and instead argues for a “government of national unity,” which Maduro seems increasingly wedded to. Just a few weeks ago, Maduro had talks with one of Venezuela’s wealthiest capitalists, Mendoza, and other sections of the bourgeoisie have expressed support for him. And that strategy has the backing of important figures in and around government.

Against this background, the position of the Chavista government has been to call for “peace” — a slogan echoed by the huge numbers of ordinary Venezuelans who have rallied behind Maduro. Their chant “they will never come back” is very significant. They recognise in the leaders of the current unrest the same people who implemented the devastating economic programmes of the 1990s, before Chavez, and who attempted to destroy his government twice before. At the same time, that”‘peace” has yet to be defined. Does it mean addressing the real problems that people face, and driving a wedge between an anxious lower middle class and its self-proclaimed bourgeois leaders? Or will it be achieved by consensus with other sections of that same class, perhaps represented by Capriles, who have no commitment at all to socialism, 21st century or otherwise?

The Venezuelan Right is no stranger to violence. On 11 April 2002, it launched a coup against Chavez and assumed power. Calls in the media for leading Chavistas to be killed gave the measure of what they were prepared to do. The coup had the support of sections of the army, the Church, the employers federation, the corrupt national trade union organization, and the U.S. Embassy. But it failed because the mass of Venezuela’s poor and working class took to the streets and brought Chavez back.

Nine months later, the attempt to destroy the oil industry, and with it the economy as a whole, was foiled again by the mass mobilization of the majority of Venezuelans — the very people whose votes had carried Chavez to power.

Is the present situation a repeat of April? Between 2002 and 2014, the Right failed to dislodge Chavez; on the contrary, Chavez’s electoral support rose consistently until his death early last year. After that, his nominated successor, Maduro, won the presidential elections in April 2013. But this time the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, came within 250,000 votes (under one percent) of winning.

It was a clear expression of the growing frustration and anger among Chavez supporters. 2012 had seen inflation rates hovering around fifty percent (officially) and the level has risen inexorably throughout the last year. Today the basic basket of goods costs 30% more than the minimum wage — and that is if the goods are to be found on the increasingly empty shelves of shops and supermarkets. The shortages are explained partly by speculation on the part of capitalists — just as happened in Chile in 1972 — and partly by the rising cost of imports, which make up a growing proportion of what is consumed in Venezuela. And that means not luxuries, but food, basic technology, and even gasoline.

All of this is an expression of an economic crisis vigorously denied by the Maduro government but obvious to everyone else. Inflation is caused by the declining value of the bolivar, Venezuela’s currency, itself the result of economic paralysis. The truth is that production of anything other than oil has ground to a virtual halt. The car industry employs 80,000 workers, yet since the beginning of 2014 it has produced 200 vehicles — what would normally be produced in half a day.

How is it possible that a country with the world’s largest proven reserves of oil (and possibly of gas, too) should now be deeply in debt to China and unable to finance the industrial development that Chavez promised in his first economic plan?

The answer is political rather than economic: corruption on an almost unimaginable scale, combined with inefficiency and a total absence of any kind of economic strategy. In recent weeks, there have been very public denunciations of speculators, hoarders, and the smugglers taking oil and almost everything else across the Colombian border. And there have been horrified reports of the “discovery” of thousands of containers of rotting food. But all of this has been common knowledge for years. Equally well known is the involvement of sectors of the state and government in all these activities.

Chavez promised popular power and the investment of the country’s oil wealth in new social programs. Quite rightly, his new health and education programs were a source of great pride and a guarantee of continued support for him among the majority of Venezuelans. Today, those funds are drying up as Venezuela’s oil income is diverted to paying for increasingly expensive imports.

What has emerged in Venezuela is a new bureaucratic class who are themselves the speculators and owners of this new and failing economy. Today, as the violence increases, they are to be seen delivering fierce speeches against corruption and wearing the obligatory red shirt and cap of Chavismo.

But the literally billions of dollars that have “disappeared” in recent years, and the extraordinary wealth accumulated by leading Chavistas, are the clearest signs that their interests have prevailed. At the same time, the institutions of popular power have largely withered on the vine. The promises of community control, of control from below, of a socialism that benefited the whole population, have proved to be hollow.

The Right has hoped to trade on that disillusionment. That it has not yet managed to mobilize significant numbers of working class people is testimony to their intense loyalty to the Chavista project, if not to his self-appointed successors — though they are unimpressed by those successors’ overnight conversion to transparency and honesty in government.

The solution is not in unprincipled alliances with the opponents of Chavismo, nor in inviting in multinationals like Samsung to enjoy cheap Venezuelan labour in assembling their equipment. What can save the Bolivarian project, and the hope it inspired in so many, is for the speculators and bureaucrats to be removed, and for popular power to be built, from the ground up, on the basis of a genuine socialism — participatory, democratic, and exemplary in refusing to reproduce the values and methods of a capitalism which has been unmasked by the revolutionary youth of Greece, Spain and the Middle East.

Roland Denis, a leading grassroots Venezuelan activist over many years, summed it up this way: “Either we turn this moment into a creative opportunity to reactivate our collective revolutionary will, or we can begin to say our farewells to the beautiful, traumatic history we have lived out over the last twenty-five years.”

 

After a long time off the air with only blogging and social net to vent our outrage and banter, we’ve finally launched ourselves on YouTube!

… yeah, we know, we’re considering calling these long segments: 2 Fat Old Guys and a Dog lol

We did what we used to do on the radio/podcasts and chewed on some current ugly fat for over an hour (no station manager to shut us up).

AUDIO (right click Punkonomics2014-2-23 and “save as” to download):

Topic: The Post-Occupy/Post-Arab Spring Co-opting of Media and Social Media for the Ends of Destroying Democracy and Promoting the Interests of the Upper Class/1%

This is based on a recent blog post: We are STILL being PLAYED! Venezuela and Ukraine in context
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Collection of links:

1966695_780730285289579_1013551254_nWhere does one even start to answer the question everybody is asking: What is going on in Venezuela and Ukraine?!? So in the spirit of punk (and French postmodernism), I’ll just stick a bunch of things together (bricolage). I provide a number of good sources at the bottom for you to get a fuller picture.

So is it a bunch of democracy-loving students engaged in non-violent resistance being violently oppressed by totalitarian governments? No it is not. But it is hard to see the big picture without getting into the long history of Venezuela and Ukraine and many other places. Hell, you need to look at the past 500+ years to really get the picture–oh yeah, that is why education is important but a good real-world education is almost impossible to get and requires many years.

I’ve been having lots of arguments with relatively rich and some very rich ex-students and their friends from Venezuela and have been trying very hard to be as civil as I can because I’m honestly trying to be open and understanding. Knowing that the Venezuela has eradicated hunger while here in the US 20% of kids are hungry today, it breaks my heart and makes me both sad and angry to hear a Venezuelan blogger complain about not being able to bake a cake due to milk shortages!? The economic problems in Venezuela are also not what they seem but on that later. I guess I’ll get some hate for this but the truth is ugly and complicated.

Disclaimer: let’s put Ukraine aside for a moment–I know less about it’s internal politics and will make a special post about it soon. Watch this for now.

In attempting to be “fair and balanced” (pun intended), I tried to watch the mainstream media and anti-government Venezuelan rhetoric too to see if perhaps I’m the one being misled… no, it was BS propaganda to anybody aware of the long and medium term facts of economics and politics–sorry.

I watched Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Square (2013) about the revolutionary struggles in Egypt in order to catch the current romantic feel of heroic youth uprisings that seem to motivate all the Web 2.0 gushing about Venezuela and Ukraine. Well the Egyptians really did have a genuine uprising against a US supported dictator by poor and rich, secular, and religious youth and they lost their heroic battle, were successfully played by the military, and crushed with the continued support of the US. In the film, an exiled father of one of the revolutionary tells him: “The rich don’t need freedom. The rich are already free.” Now stop for a second and ask yourself: how does this fit into the “struggle for freedom” in the streets of Caracas these past days? It doesn’t!

Why? Because it is entirely orchestrated and run by rich Venezuelans. The majority poor aren’t involved in this at all. A significant minority in Venezuela are critical of their democratically elected government and have been exercising their right of expression and political participation but have not been able to gain power by legal means though Henrique Capriles came close in the previous presidential elections. His moderate minority is also overwhelmingly rich and upper middle-class urban people and he deserves credit for NOT supporting the radical right-wing takeover of the opposition by, most notably Leopoldo Lopez, a billionaire from an old power-family who has been taking violent actions against the Chavez government since the previous CIA backed coup against democracy in 2002. He is and continues to be a rich oligarch thug who deeply resents not being able to rule over his domain like his ancestors before him. Despite his wealth, US support, global financial support, and a sophisticated propaganda machine, he only won the hearts of rich people and it looks like all he accomplished is to break up the legitimate opposition. The violent clashes were rather small and mostly located in their rich neighborhoods and private schools and much of the violence came from Lopez’s followers themselves. Oh yeah, and more innocent civilians are murdered by the government of Colombia (a close ally of the US and Lopez and friends) every week than have died in Venezuela’s riots–double standards?

YES Venezuela has some serious economic problems. These are complex issues I’ll try to tackle in a future post but let’s say that at the very least, we should know that over the past decade, Venezuela has accomplished a tremendous feat of poverty-reduction never seen anywhere in recent times. The lives of a vast majority of the poor population have improved dramatically while everywhere else on Earth over the same time, the opposite has happened–even in China. Furthermore, they accomplished this despite aggressively hostile global economic players who have been funding coups and radical groups and even engaging in direct economic sabotage that are, at least in part, responsible for Venezuela’s economic woes. So whatever legitimate problems they have with street violence, food-prices, and inflation, the Bolivarian democratic regimes in South America have been the first good thing to happen to the vast majority of the people there since the European conquest 500+ years ago and would not have been possible without the leadership of the Venezuelan people and Chavismo–something for Venezuelans to be very proud about!

The Postmodern Twist:

People in supposedly free countries not knowing what is being done in their name is not new: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky should be required reading (here’s a very short intro about their Propaganda Model). BUT I think it has gotten more dominant especially in the current media coverage of Venezuela and Ukraine. Today, there even is a twist within a twist in that people are posting their outrage about how “the media” is not “covering” the situation. They then post blatant propaganda in support of a what is in actuality a well-engineered propaganda campaign by oligarchic elites to undermine democracy (wow! despite my training in postmodern philosophy, my head spins).

But it gets crazier! The power-elites (aka the 1%) and the military-financial-complex (more on this soon–check this out) are using the well-meaning non-violent work of liberals such as Gene Sharp to execute their coups. No need to send death squads (trained at School of the Americas in Georgia), or militarily support nasty dictators and juntas (like in Egypt among numerous examples). Today they can use well-meaning naive and propagandized students to spark the process of post-colonial oppression: it’s colonizing version 3.0!

Question: ok ok we get it, but what IS going on in the Venezuela?

Answer: An attempted “Soft Coup”:

I’ve adapted this from TeleSUR which is funded by the left governments of America including Venezuela and even Cuba! Not disinterested and independent but a good summary of work by the (IMHO well-meaning) philosopher and political scientist Gene Sharp. Also, consider my previous bla bla, history, provided links (see below), history (yes; again), and judge for yourself if this is not a damn good model for the current goings on:

How to overthrow a government through non-violent methods
(in this context, non-violent implies not organizing guerrillas or invading from abroad):

  1. “Softening”

    • creating climate of opinion focusing on deficiencies

    • disseminate discontent

    • promote shortages, criminality, internal fractures, sabotage

  2. “Delegitimization”

    • ethical and political fracture

    • media campaigns accusing government of being totalitarian (and/or communist) and contrasting opposition as fighting for freedom and human rights

  3. “Street heating”

    • promote conflict and street mobilization

    • promote struggle for globalized political and social demands

    • create state reaction and consequently public discontent in order to radicalize the confrontation

  4. Reaction:

    • Armed actions to justify repressive measures and create climate of ungovernability

    • Smear campaign among state forces to demoralize security forces

  5. “Institutional Fracture”

    • Increased street actions

    • Occupation of institutions

    • Force resignation of government (especially figure -head)

In case of failure to overthrow government, rinse and repeat:

  • escalate stage 3, 4, and 5

  • seek international intervention: sanctions and/or military

  • develop prolonged civil war

Tell me this doesn’t sound awfully familiar!?!

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