Author Topic: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela  (Read 813 times)

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Michael Tee

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http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/2544-building-socialism-from-below-the-role-of-the-communes-in-venezuela

This is an excellent, longish, mildly to moderately difficult article by a teacher in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa and a teacher of politics at the University of Regina (Saskatchewan.)

It's about the development of grassroots comunas (i.e., soviets or communes) in the urban barrios and in the countryside of Venezuela under the Chávez regime, which has established a "Ministry of Popular Power for the Comunas and Social Protection" to facilitate and encourage the development of the comunas.

The article is interesting for a number of reasons, one being that it provides a practical example of the possibilities of creating grassroots centres of power through participatory democracy rather than representative democracy, another being that it draws attention to the tensions between grassroots participatory democracy and the structures of a bourgeois state, such as Venezuela, even under the leadership of "leftists" such as the Chávez administration.  Because of the structure of the bourgeois state inherited from previous administrations, there is unavoidable tension between the appointees of the current federal administration (the mayors and governors) and the comunas (soviets or communes) themselves.  The article also deals with the potential for the future spread of jurisdiction of the soviets from the purely local to matters of national concern, essentially (as I understand this) through inter-soviet networking on a state, and then national, level.

It's a very encouraging article for those who might have bought into the MSM claptrap that socialism was dead.  The article deals, although not in much detail, with the "fall" of the Soviet Union, which it associates with the failure of true participatory democracy in a state which had become "Soviet" in name only.  Hopefully, the comuna movement would avoid the so-called "pitfall" of Russian communism, i.e., the conundrum of absolute power in a "People's Republic."

The article takes the form of an interview with a young, but apparently quite experienced, former student activist now engaged full-time in the development of the movement.  It's cautiously optimistic

The problems faced by the comunas in building socialism from the bottom up are dealt with frankly but hopefully.  The article is certainly not for anyone with the two-dimensional cartoon-like image of Venezuela (evil dictator, banana republic, captive nation) purveyed by the American MSM, but it's a realistic look at the problems of building true socialism in Latin America.

Plane

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2010, 01:32:16 AM »
Excellent !Excellent !


Nothing kills socialism quicker than "true" socialism.

BT

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2010, 02:34:24 AM »
What is old is new again:

Council communism
Main article: Council communism

Council communism is a far-left movement originating in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1920s. Its primary organization was the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD). Council communism continues today as a theoretical and activist position within both left-wing Marxism and libertarian socialism.

The central argument of council communism, in contrast to those of social democracy and Leninist Communism, is that democratic workers' councils arising in the factories and municipalities are the natural form of working class organisation and governmental power. This view is opposed to both the reformist and the Leninist ideologies, with their stress on, respectively, parliaments and institutional government (i.e., by applying social reforms), on the one hand, and vanguard parties and participative democratic centralism on the other).

The core principle of council communism is that the government and the economy should be managed by workers' councils composed of delegates elected at workplaces and recallable at any moment. As such, council communists oppose state-run authoritarian "State socialism"/"State capitalism". They also oppose the idea of a "revolutionary party", since council communists believe that a revolution led by a party will necessarily produce a party dictatorship. Council communists support a worker's democracy, which they want to produce through a federation of workers' councils. Council communism (and other types of "anti-authoritarian and Anti-leninist Marxism" such as Autonomism) are often viewed as being similar to Anarchism because they criticize Leninist ideologies for being authoritarian and reject the idea of a vanguard party.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism#Council_communism

Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2010, 12:16:33 PM »
<<Excellent !Excellent !


<<Nothing kills socialism quicker than "true" socialism.>>


Got anything to add that's, uh, a little more substantive in the way of comment?

Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2010, 12:45:14 PM »
<<The core principle of council communism is that the government and the economy should be managed by workers' councils composed of delegates elected at workplaces and recallable at any moment. As such, council communists oppose state-run authoritarian "State socialism"/"State capitalism". They also oppose the idea of a "revolutionary party", since council communists believe that a revolution led by a party will necessarily produce a party dictatorship. Council communists support a worker's democracy, which they want to produce through a federation of workers' councils. Council communism (and other types of "anti-authoritarian and Anti-leninist Marxism" such as Autonomism) are often viewed as being similar to Anarchism because they criticize Leninist ideologies for being authoritarian and reject the idea of a vanguard party.>>

Just out of curiosity, BT, how did you get from the article I cited to the "council communism" link?  Were you already familiar with the term "council communism" or did you follow some link or reference in the article cited?

Personally, I wasn't familiar with the term myself, although I had heard somewhere of the KAPD.  The whole article reminded me of the beginnings of the Russian Revolution, when "soviets" or councils of workers, peasants and soldiers began to form spontaneously and then linked haphazardly to one another by sending delegates to conferences of soviets.  To me it sounded less like the "council communism" of the 1920s and more like the origins of the 1917 Revolution.  However, on second thought, those soviets were in fact quick to focus their power on the organs of the bourgeois state, an error which the Venezuelan activists quoted were anxious to avoid.

The only quarrel I have with your analogy to council communism is that the latter (at least from the Wikipedia article you quoted) seemed to recognize only workers' councils.  Neither the Venezuelan comunas nor the soviets of the 1917 revolution focused exclusively on worker organizations.  The soviets organized among workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors (the Kronstadt naval soviet actually tried and executed some of their officers, including an admiral) and the comunas seemed to be organizing more in rural areas but also in urban barrios, primarily upon a residency basis.

In any event, the points that I was making were, firstly, that democratic socialism is alive and well in Venezuela albeit with many organizing challenges ahead, that it has some support from, but also some points of tension with, the Chávez administration, that Chávez is far from the "evil dictator" that the US right wing tries to portray him as, and that a promising alternative to top-down capitalist rule appears to be evolving in Latin America under the nose of Uncle Sam.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2010, 01:19:28 PM by Michael Tee »

BT

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 01:21:26 PM »
Ever  heard the saying "Act Locally, Think Globally" ?

That is what council communism is all about. Marxism at the local level. No central control, no power struggles and purges, adapting what works for them at the local level. Look at religious communes and the secular communes of the sixties to see what is capable of working and how a manageable utopia can be successful at a smaller level but is absolutely corrupted once power and all that goes with it comes into the picture.

You have often lamented that you couldn't understand how the Soviet Union could blow the grand experiment.

The answer is easy.

They forgot who the revolution was for.




Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2010, 02:10:16 PM »
<<Ever  heard the saying "Act Locally, Think Globally" ?

<<That is what council communism is all about. Marxism at the local level. No central control, no power struggles and purges, adapting what works for them at the local level. Look at religious communes and the secular communes of the sixties to see what is capable of working and how a manageable utopia can be successful at a smaller level but is absolutely corrupted once power and all that goes with it comes into the picture.>>

The Venezuelan activist did outline how the comunas, now occupied with purely local issues, could network into larger organizations that would act on national policy.

<<You have often lamented that you couldn't understand how the Soviet Union could blow the grand experiment.

<<The answer is easy.

<<They forgot who the revolution was for. >>

Neatly ruling out foreign intervention sabotage.  That's what I want to find out.  I've got a lot of reading scheduled for when I retire.

BT

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2010, 03:45:51 PM »
Quote
Neatly ruling out foreign intervention sabotage.

Yes it is always more convenient to blame outsiders for internal woes.

Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2010, 04:40:20 PM »
<<Yes it is always more convenient to blame outsiders for internal woes. >>

I don't blame anyone, but I have my suspicions.  There has been plenty of foreign intervention and meddling in Russia's affairs since the Bolshevik Revolution, and as far as I know, it has continued without let-up.  I plan to read, study, learn, all  with an open mind.

BT

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2010, 10:16:27 PM »
Quote
I plan to read, study, learn, all  with an open mind.

And who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks

Plane

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2010, 11:21:18 PM »
<<Yes it is always more convenient to blame outsiders for internal woes. >>

I don't blame anyone, but I have my suspicions.  There has been plenty of foreign intervention and meddling in Russia's affairs since the Bolshevik Revolution, and as far as I know, it has continued without let-up.  I plan to read, study, learn, all  with an open mind.

As if the USSR were not as closed up against the outside as it could have been.

Or as if all of the other countries did n't have pretty much the same problem.

Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2010, 11:48:20 PM »
<<As if the USSR were not as closed up against the outside as it could have been.>>

Yeah, the operative phrase there being "as it could have been."  The fact is, there was no sealant that prevented the entry of foreign agents acting for Britain, France, Germany and other countries intent on sabotaging and destroying the Revolution.

sirs

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2010, 11:54:25 PM »
Riiiiight.......that has to have been it             ::)
"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle

Plane

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2010, 12:01:09 AM »
<<As if the USSR were not as closed up against the outside as it could have been.>>

Yeah, the operative phrase there being "as it could have been."  The fact is, there was no sealant that prevented the entry of foreign agents acting for Britain, France, Germany and other countries intent on sabotaging and destroying the Revolution.


Do you suppose that there was one more CIA spy than KGB spy?


Michael Tee

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Re: Building Socialism from Below: The Role of the Communes in Venezuela
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2010, 12:08:00 AM »
<<Do you suppose that there was one more CIA spy than KGB spy?>>

I wouldn't know.  Wouldn't make any difference.  It's effectiveness, not weight of numbers, that counts here.