Monthly Archives: March 2013

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez listens during a ceremony at the Mir

Las muchas muertes de Hugo Chávez, Líder de Venezuela, aliado clave de Brasil

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez listens during a ceremony at the Mir

Por Carlos Petroni

Hugo Chávez murió el martes 5 de marzo (por una coincidencia catastrófica, murió el mismo día que Stalin)a las 14:25 de acuerdo a la información del gobierno Venezolano. No murió solo un hombre, sino muchos hombres y un múltiple líder. Jóven, dueño de una personalidad impetuosa y carismática y querido intensamente por una parte importantísima de su pueblo. Un populista distributivo que trajo alivio a partes de la enorme pobreza existente en Venezuela antes de su asunción mediante elecciones más de una década atrás.

Antes de ser electo, fue golpista. Luego de ganar las elecciones sufrió el golpismo. Su populismo verbal desordenado y el hallarse sentado sobre un barril de petróleo y otro de gas le permitió no solo convertirse en el líder de su país y de un racimo de otros países como Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia y hasta la caída de Lugo, de Paraguay y hasta el golpe de estado la mismísima Honduras, sino también en un pieza importantísima de Brasil en su empeño por lograr la hegemonía imperialista en la región, en compañía de China, en su lucha soterrada contra los imperialismos decadentes de Europa y EEUU.

labor squashed

What is the working class aristocracy? What is the Labor Bureaucracy? Why do they exist?

labor squashed

Resolution of International Left

“The trade union bureaucrats, like the bureaucrats of false Communism, live in the atmosphere of aristocratic prejudices of the upper strata of the workers. It will be a tragedy if the oppositionists are infected even in the slightest degree with these qualities. We must not only reject and condemn these prejudices; we must burn them out of our consciousness to the last trace. We must find the road to the most deprived, to the darkest strata of the proletariat, beginning with the Negro, whom capitalist society has converted into a pariah, and who must learn to see in us his revolutionary brothers. And this depends wholly upon our energy and devotion to the work”

Trotsky, Leon, Militant

May 1, 1929

To address the debate over whether a sector of the working class (the labor aristocracy) benefits from the surplus value extracted from the countries oppressed and exploited by imperialism, we must start with the analysis of the origin of the labor aristocracy itself. This is also necessary in order to see how the bourgeois project that incorporates a layer of the working class in to a higher level of benefits, salaries and privileges — as practiced in every country in the world — is part of the dominant class “divide and rule” strategy against the oppressed and exploited.

The emergence of the working class aristocracy is closely linked to the needs of the bourgeoisie to: a) guarantee the economic exploitation of central resources without the hassle of social conflicts; b) gain a foothold in the labor movement to ensure their domination of the whole by dividing and overexploiting most of the workers. The creation of the labor aristocracy is the other side of the coin of the maintenance of a permanent army of unemployed workers. The former guarantees a loyal segment of the working class while the latter serves as a latent threat, an available replacement of employed workers, and a way to depress their wages.

With the advent of imperialism, the bourgeoisie sought to ensure that the value added to raw materials extracted from the colonies and semi-colonies was produced in the Metropolis and also, this bourgeoisie needed the support of its own working class as its social base in order to pursue economic interventions in foreign markets and the use of force to guarantee it (wars, armed interventions, blockades, etc).

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decline empire

The Imperialist Titanic

decline empire

Europeans know splendor like they know decadence (and its consequences), but even throughout several different generations of experience, they have not always learned from their history. Will they learn this time? There has been anger, confusion, rebellion, xenophobia and impotence. Will anything good emerge from this?

By Nicolás Barros

 

The situation in Europe is far from good. Europeans have routinely trashed and irrationally exploited the environment for centuries. More recently there has been a lack of  investment in new and improved technologies and manufacturing plants;  instead  there has been only pushes  to spend on useless and unnecessary construction, to withhold  capital from increasing manufacturing capacity, and  even at times to invest capital in manufacturing outside of Europe. After all this, the chickens are coming home to roost.

The European Union is a thing of the past; it has drowned. It is the subject of much speculation and conjecture as to how it may continue to splinter, but there is no argument over the grim circumstances of its current status. England began its retreat before finishing its entrance. The country’s political and financial leadership is alarmed by the inevitable slide of its financial market under the domination of Zurich. With the dismantling of its former industrial power, England will simply be converted into a semi-colony of France, Germany and India.

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Occupy-movement-protester-007

The Crisis of the Empire, the Polarization, the Disintegration and the Movement

Occupy-movement-protester-007

All the workers and the oppressed in the United States know first hand the depth of the crisis happening in the country. Without even seeing the statistics, most people know that unemployment has doubled. While officially reported at 10%, reflecting only those who are still collecting unemployment insurance, in the real world it is actually about 20%.

Social services have been cut drastically (by 18% according to official figures) as education, health services, housing, bridges and roads (but not limited thereto) are all crumbling in plain sight.

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greek-protest-at-parliament-feb-2011

A TURBULENT WORLD A New Political Situation

At the dawn of the current century a new international scene began to consolidate with its own features that are in many ways opposed to the earlier epoch1, which was characterized by the strengthening of capitalism which had extended its own survival for the umpteenth time, constantly postponing its inevitable end.

This apparent invincibility lasted only one decade2 and today we see how the bastions of this system– the United States and the European Union – are sinking rapidly and sharply into decay. At the same time China and Brazil – among others – are striving to develop their new powers as imperialist nations, while relying on the regional blocks that they already lead. They are developing themselvesdespite the difficulties present in rising precisely in the middle of the another, hopefully final, decline of capitalism.

These conditions have done nothing but exacerbate the social discontent that has been evidenced through the protests of disapproval and rebellion taking place in almost all of Europe, the United States, North Africa and the Middle East.

These protests have not produced alternatives to what currently exists; they have limited themselves to complaints which essentially defend the benefits and living standards of the past. This is, for example, the case with the Indignados (the Indignant and the unemployed youth) in Europe, but of course, the movement is just beginning.

At the same time, this same terminal crisis, does not allow capitalism to manage the various imperial nations through the traditional bourgeois democratic regimes, as has happened throughout much of the 20th century.

The reformist apparatuses of other times, like the Social Democrats, have succumbed. The dictatorships, like in North Africa, have fallen, demonstrating that even anti-democratic bourgeois domination is in crisis.

As demands and struggles have spread on one hand while production and investment have plummeted on the other, inevitably financial capital has imposed itself on the rest of the productive activities and – moreover – at its own peril because of its tendency to monopolize productive property and control it, is in itself a lead lifebelt in times of deep crisis.

This is derived from the weakening of the inter-bourgeois alliances of state management that configure the existing political regimes, ranging from the parliamentary to the presidential and even to the dictatorships. In certain cases this even leads to them falling into the hands of governments that apply fascist measures or methodologies, characterized by only representing the interests of financial capital which has the socio-political attribute of suppressing any democratic expression, even electoral.

They have not yet become stable governments, since they still cannot rely on a social base outside of the bourgeoisie itsel, a base capable of imposing absolute domination through methods of civil war against the workers.

These regimes are supported by international financial organizations and continental armed forces. We can see this for example in Greece and Italy, where the local bourgeoisie did not manage to form governments and so financial capital sponsored “technical” governments. This is an euphemism to designate de facto governing authorities, without elections, and – incidentally – these governments are headed by former officials of the European Union who quickly surrounded themselves with employees, executives and former executives of banking and other financial sectors.

It is more accurate to define these regimes as civil dictatorships- or Bonapartist – that reflect the interests of the creditors of French-German financial capital.

Another fascist characteristic that some of these regimes have is the nationalization of large companies – these days financial ones — with the aim of saving capital that is in ruins – not in order to pass these on to the domain and control of workers – but to maintain the previous owners using state funds3. Belgium, France, and Luxembourg have done this recently with the Dexia Bank and in Greece this happened with the Proton Bank, imitating United States, Canada, Australia, England, Holland, Poland, the Federation of Malaya, and Belgium — among many others — which had already done this after the fall of Lehman Brothers.

This is no different from what Hitler and Mussolini tried in their time, not only with parts of banking but also with other industries that resulted in the strengthening of their dictatorships, without financial capital losing control of its own entities, since this process was mediated by the state.

In the current epoch that we have characterized as non revolutionary4 on the global level, there are some regions or countries of the world where there begins to emerge evidence of a new pre-revolutionary stage5.

This is particularly visible in North Africa and in countries of Europe such as Italy and Greece, where we have seen massive participation, the fall of governments in North African and general strikes in parts of Europe. There, we see the presence of the objective premises of a pre-revolutionary situation: economic cataclysm, the impossibility of governments and regimes to continue ruling as they have up until now, the growing will of the people not to be governed as they have been before, and increased social polarization.

The economic crisis, widespread in the European Union, United States, the North of Africa and the Middle East, indicates that many people do not support continuing to bear the hardships caused by this system and at the same time the capitalists are having increasing difficulty governing these regions, this seriously shows the feasibility of a new stage in these regions. Keeping in mind that the situation is much more delayed in the US – because of its historical characteristics as far as the development of a mass movement is concerned

The evident polarization however, does not mean that the balance of forces develops evenly. While the financial bourgeoisie prepares its far right parties and organizations for new challenges – and in some countries this means even the real possibility of governing – the workers, their class-based organizations and the revolutionary left, lack their parties and their political and trade union organizations that would allow them to meet the challenge imposed by the new situation.

This new open situation is critical, it involves great risks and opportunities, and everything will depend on what the workers and oppressed do.l

 

NOTES

1. Approximately from 1989 to 1999.

2. Capitalism swallowed in record time the accumulated wealth the people from the former worker-states took seven decades to build.

3. This was already done by Great Britain using the Company of the Indies during the 19th century and by England, Austria-Hungary and Germany in pre World War I and by Hitler and Mussolini before World War II.

4. Our characterization covers the period beginning in 2000 until today and it provides the theoretical basis for our policy document (see www.izquierda.info). The document sustains that we are at a stage where the central forces of the system remain stabilized.

5. The pre-revolutionary stage is a period where there are objective conditions for the change of the society but where the political organizations needed to lead it are lacking.

6. These privileged layers are called the labor aristocracy. See related article in this issue International Left Review.

populismo picture

Venezuela, Ecuador AND Bolivia

Por Pili Rosales

The names Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa have become synonymous with controversy. Right wing, conservative and moderate political pundits and political actors from the ruling class and middle class vilify them while moderates, liberals and self-styled leftists have installed the three of them on altars as highly anticipated messiahs. Despite the differences in the political paths they followed to leadership, their different national circumstances and their own styles of speaking, these three figureheads have many peculiarities and points in common. Paradoxically, all three proclaim the urgency of promoting “liberation democracies” in Latin America while simultaneously working to increase the strength and centrality of their own power. Even considering their differences Hugo, Rafael and Evo share one major thing in common, their populist politics within the limiting framework of bourgeoisie nationalism.

While in many ways their visions coincide, the three emerged into their respective political arenas and work in different national contexts, which influences their independent projects. When Chavez was elected as president of Venezuela for the first time in 1999, the progressive sectors there and the worldwide left had high expectations for him. Chavez fashioned his campaign on an agenda of Latin American unity and anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic rhetoric that resonated with the oppressed, sectors of the middle class and most of the working class. These people constituted the 60% of the popular vote, which legitimized his campaign against the failure of the old bipartisanship.

Chavez’s opposition in Venezuela is diverse: Important sectors of the bourgeoisie, the middle class, students and even some privileged sectors of workers. However the attacks of the “escualidos” (the most right wing and reactionary opposition to Chavez in the country) launching racist and class biased attacks against him and his supporters, have until now fueled the red waves of Chavistas to respond bravely after each incident with slogans like “¡Nos quieren tumbar a nuestro Negro, pero no los vamos a dejar!” (They want us to take our negro down, but we will not let that happen!)

Since taking office in 2006, Morales in Bolivia and Correa in Ecuador have declared their support for Chavez and his proposals for the continent. Their elections had been similar to that of Chavez in Venezuela, in terms of creating a legitimate response and resistance to a decade of destructive neo-liberal attacks on workers and the indigenous populace in South America. In both countries, there has been a rebirth of strong national independence movements that include indigenous groups, who are also part of the working class. The clearest example of that conjecture is the miners in Bolivia.

Morales has promoted the self-employed and small producers on the margins of the national and international bourgeoisie, mainly the cocaleros (coca leaf farmers) proclaiming them as an example of unique “Andean capitalism”.The exaltation of the Aymaran president Evo and his indigenous roots contrasts with the collapse of his support and popularity among the indigenous peoples, like the miners, who seem to be organizing opposition to him, when Morales has failed to follow through on his promises.

On the other hand, Correa is a leftist politician educated abroad, whose speeches are high-minded, challenging, and emotional but attuned to the rhythm of bourgeois society in Ecuador. Unlike the Chavez and Morales in Venezuela and Bolivia, Correa came to power without a political party like the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia or like the coalition of parties in Venezuela. His political rise happened with the support of the Patria Altiva y Soberana alliance, PAIS, where he led a participatory process that incorporated major commonly ignored social issues including environmental conservation.

In the case of both Morales and Correa, the euphoria generated by their electoral success was pronounced. Around both of them debate emerged within the left as to whether or not they lead bourgeois governments and about how they responded to workers’ struggles. The leftist debaters did not want to duplicate the virulent and xenophobic attacks of the reactionary right.

Both presidents, like Chavez, have facilitated the re-distribution of wealth and have granted benefits to communities that previously had none, staying strictly within the limits of the bourgeois order of the capitalist world. This explains their commitment to elections and referendums. Their progressive measures have won them denunciations as “communists, leftists and socialists” among the right wing, ruling class and US imperialist opposition. On the other hand, forces on the left ignore the impact of their programs and focus on the charismatic charm of these populist leaders. There is no denying that these measures have contributed to improving the lives of down-trodden sectors of society but it is also true that all these actions are still only “band-aid solutions” and remain within boundaries that respect bourgeois property rights and institutions.

 

What is Chavismo?

Chavismo emerged as a reaction against neo-liberalism in the 90’s and was one of the first voices of protest against US imperialism after a decade in which the US declared absolute victory over communism. Chavez’s defiance of the United States quickly enhanced his popularity. Simultaneously, he was able to increase social welfare benefits thanks to an oil boom. New measurable improvements are now rare due to the severe impact of the US and European economic crises which have affected Venezuela directly and harshly.

Here we see clearly the exact nature of these particular regimes: they are bourgeois nationalist regimes with populist hot sauce, in an era of the global crisis of capitalism and unstable relationships between countries. This situation, the actions and the personas of the leaders, in no way resemble Cardenas in 1930s Mexico nor Peron in post-World War II Argentina. This is populism in a time of crisis, confronting an imperialism that does not resemble ascendant US imperialism at the end of the World War II. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are facing the emergence of Brazil as an imperialist power that dominates their natural resources as well as their imports and exports. The three governments have done little or nothing to confront the regional influence of Brazil and instead see it as an ally, so much so that Chavez has called former Brazilian Prime Minister Lula his “big brother.”

It is undeniable that the Chavez’s government has implemented programs that benefit the poor, especially in the areas of housing and food. Despite the now more frequent blackouts and an economic crisis that undermines the promises of the celebrated “socialism of the 21st century”, the “red shirts”, Chavez’s followers, still listen with almost religious adulation to the Sunday program “Hello President”. On the show Hugo Chávez answers calls, makes fun of the “escuálidos”, expropriates some properties and punishes government officials who he accuses of distorting his political agenda.

A Populism Mispronounced Socialism of the 21st Century

“Socialism of the 21st century” is nothing more than populism and pure reverence built on the backs of those that are excluded from the distribution of the taxes and the democratic networks.The love-hate relationship that Chávez, Morales and Correa have with leftists and progressives of theworld perfectly fills a void in the existing political community.

These South American governments have carried out social programs such as assistance to families without incomes, returned land to indigenous communities, health and education programs, subsidized basic food staples, made nationalizations and expropriations and investments in infrastructure as a way of responding to the current political crisis and at the same time fortifying their own respective positions of power.

Obviously, in spite of the fact that are branded as socialists and speak of the establishment of a “Socialism of the 21st century” or even of ”Andean and Bolivariano” socialism, real socialism does not exist there yet.  Even if nationalizations, some expropriations and other measures have taken place in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, the bourgeoisie continues to own and control the majority of the means of production. Actually, a larger and more extensive number of these actions and measures happened in Mexico when the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) was in power. No one thought at the time that the PRI was a revolutionary regime or that its actions were socialist.

The nationalizations in these three countries have only been the state’s small participatory steps in the income stream without touching the interests and the proprietary rights of the imperialist petroleum companies that continue exploiting the resources of these countries. There have not been expropriations nor has the working class gained power. Instead, the income of the state has increased and the state has attempted, with limited success, to gain greater administrative control.

These leaders have maintained the contradiction of remaining independent while advancing social reforms without upsetting the capitalist state. However this has cost them dearly. The gasolinazo in Bolivia may at first seem surprising, but it should have been expected. Morales has been playing with fire for years. He wanted to please everyone and eventually he had to take sides, and he chose the side with the most power. Correa made the same kind of choice when he ordered the suppression of demonstrations of indigenous people. Even without the economic stability that Venezuela had for a short period, both Bolivia and Ecuador built bourgeois/petit-bourgeois nationalist regimes. They are trying to preserve their independence from imperialism while giving concessions to the impoverished masses, yet without disrupting the capitalist structures of both countries.

The timing is bad for the populist politics of Hugo, Evo and Rafael in this period of world crisis.  Their politics seem silly in a world where a wild and voracious capitalist system does not allow them the room to maneuver that they had until now. Meanwhile the “revolutionary” measures of these governments are used to promote the personality cults of these leaders and to build more extensive bureaucracies without generating worker’s power. “Socialism of the 21st century” is fake… a parody, not even of socialism but of populism.