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Reflections on Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and its Solidarity Economy

By Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone

Last September we watched a DVD of Hugo Chavez explaining his presence in an enormous stadium at the 5th World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in January of 2005.  This statement struck us:  “We in the Venezuelan delegation are here to learn and to take home new ideas, to soak up the passion and the knowledge here.  For what Venezuela is doing is only a test run, an experiment.  Like all experiments it needs monitoring, oversight, on how it is doing…and so our experiment is open to all of the other wonderful experiments that are now happening in the world.” Revolution as open experiment?  It sounded too good to be true. We had to see for ourselves.  So we were glad Caracas was the site of what would be our first World Social Forum (WSF).

Our first encounter with Venezuela’s experiment was in the person of Luis Guacaran, a taxi co-op member who was to drive us to Caracas. Young welcomers in red Chavez berets offered us “solidarity transportation” (i.e. gratis) from the airport.  But we were headed for a distant part of the city.  Settled into the rainy trip (a main-route bridge was out), we asked Luis what the revolution had meant in his own life.  He said it had shown him that as a citizen he had a right to share in the nation’s oil wealth, which had always gone to an “oligarchy.”  It had been enough that the people needed health, education, and meaningful work for President Chavez to divert oil revenues to providing these things, transforming families like Luis’s.  “That is why he is so loved,” he said.  But how did Luis get the government he wanted?  To answer, some history is needed.


Roots of Bolivarianism


Many Venezuelans claim their 1989 “caracazo” protest riot by the country’s poor was South America’s first direct mass resistance to neo-liberal policies and to the class structure that had allowed it. The Zapatista uprising was five years later. Soon after the indebted Venezuelan government had put into effect austerity “recommendations” by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), prices rose sharply. A bus fare spike was the last straw. The putatively socialist government responded to the caracazo  --  the Caracas craziness  --  with a long, bloody repression in which 400 to 2000 died.  No police were punished for their participation and a class-based resentment set in.[1]  The tough 23 de Enero neighborhood started to organize itself, and across town some young military officers led by Chavez began study of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830). The group shaped Bolivarianism, meaning (for them) devotion to national independence, economic self-sufficiency, an ethic of service, and of course South American unity.  We say “shaped” because, for good or ill, Bolivarianism is neither a set of principles nor a view of history.  It is more a goal  -- liberation  --  that becomes clearer as the means to it unfold, a result as well as a cause of conscious historical practice.  “Revolutionary praxis” as Jean-Paul Sartre called it, is not just anything one wants it to be, for liberation as end admits of some means to itself and not others.[2]  We came to believe that this revolution without ideology knows just where it is going.

Why does Latin America seek liberation? In a phrase because of its historical exploitation by North America  --  punctuated by scores of armed interventions. Theodore Roosevelt’s early twentieth century imperialist campaigns merely underlined this exploitative structure.  Its roots were in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which in some ways conveyed a vision of union of the colonized against their colonizers.[3] Capitalism treated the Yankees well, born as they were to free markets with no memory of feudalism.  After World War II the U.S. was clearly the world’s dominant capitalist power and codified this economic dominance in 1945 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire by joining in creation of the “International” Monetary Fund (IMF) and the “World” Bank.  These U.S-tutored banks oversaw a mechanism of dominance.  For it turns out that free international trade always favors the stronger nation, an economic asymmetry first described in the 1950s.  Dependency of Latin America, with its raw materials, on North America, with its finished goods, became the “natural” or entrenched relationship. Quite independent of merit, the conjoint “neo-colonial” system rewarded anyone born into Southern comprador classes, that is, the faithful locals needed to assure smooth northerly transfer of value in various forms.  Those so “chosen” tended to identify with the North and compromise their national sovereignty.[4] Southernerners born into this class who quixotically insisted on sovereignty  --  Sandino and Castro are examples  -- found socialism attractive as the only way to bring resources under national control. 

But in the 1980s neo-liberal policies globalized neo-colonial domination:  U.S., European and Japanese capital could now move anywhere to cheaper labor markets.  Free trade may have favored most Northamericans up to then, helping explain why U.S. neo-conservatives and their Democrat imitators have won elections.  But capital’s new mobility has been pitting Northern workers ever more directly against Southern workers in attracting investment.  This is risky. The wave of left-wing governments in Latin America is partly a rejection by Southern electorates of their role as cheap labor.  If the Northerners connect their poverty to the same system that oppresses the former, that system may be in danger. In Europe recent mass protests of neo-liberal policies, and growth of left parties specifically opposing neo-liberal globalization, reflect this connection.[5]

The U.S. media will not help U.S. workers to make this connection.  Most U.S. citizens do not know that the IMF austerity package imposed in the 1980s and 1990s on Venezuela had originated in their own Washington DC.  The resort to uprisings and socialism thus appears either gratuitous or due to Chavez’s persuasiveness. That origin is all too well known to Venezuelans.  For in the IMF the relative size of a country’s economy determines its votes, codifying historical results of dependency.  With 371,743, the U.S. has over double the votes of its nearest rival, Japan, with 133,378.  Add up South America’s votes, multiply by 10, and you’re still not close to the power of U.S. interests.[6] The recent eclipse of industrial by financial capital only increased the North’s power to dictate credit terms to the South.  Frontally or tacitly, the U.S. decides if a country gets credit  --  not only from the IMF (and World Bank) but from regional and private banks which take the IMF lead.  And a credit freeze is a major threat.[7] 

What galls South Americans here is that, having started out sharing a project of independence with Northamericans, a financial dictatorship has evolved that resembles the debt peonage that Spain had long enforced on her colonies, though now on a global scale.  What good was liberation from colonialism if neo-colonialism and now corporate globalization just as surely cancel the equal sovereignty that was to follow colonialism?  Paradoxically, the UN charter guaranteeing such sovereignty was signed a mere year after launch of the IMF, which has undermined that sovereignty.[8]  The virtually dictatorial power of the U.S. vote in the IMF, an imbalance based on outdated nineteenth century property qualifications for voting, allows much ongoing harm to be done in the name of U.S. citizens that they, or at least their better selves, would not allow.  Ironically, the insurgency against Spain led of Venezuelans Francisco de Miranda and Simone Bolivar  --  the older de Miranda having fought with the American colonials for independence from the English crown  --  had drawn inspiration from their northern comrades, bonds that persist even now. The biography of de Miranda written by one of our hosts in Caracas, Professor Carmen Bohorquez, seeks to re-discover this figure and these bonds.[9]  She reports that the Northamerican revolutionary, John Adams said of de Miranda:  “no man better understands what our struggle was about.” Looking back in 2006 at the Monroe doctrine’s evolution from protection against European imperialism to instrument of U.S. imperialism, the irony appears as tragedy.

Chavez was first elected in 1998.  He had invoked Bolivar’s opposition to de jure colonialism against the new economic colonialism, proposed a new constitution, and promised sharing of oil wealth.  The wealthy responded by shifting some $10 billion in assets to Miami and New York during 1999, a quarter of total state revenues  --  not a very patriotic act. [10]  Chavez faced a dire situation:  per capita income had fallen 35% between 1970 and 1998, one of the world’s sharpest drops.[11]  Why then did he wait until after 2003 to take control of oil?  His initial focus was on the re-legitimation of politics. The main parties had discredited political debate itself by excluding the left and validating diversion of revenues from the nationalized oil industry to the wealthy. But where Castro had first nationalized oil refineries and ignored elections, giving some rationale to counter-revolution, Chavez did the reverse.  He initiated debate on redesigning state powers.  Ubiquitous neighborhood-based “Bolivarian circles” debated the draft constitution, building grassroots ownership of it.  It was ratified in 1999 and new elections followed which Chavez won.  Political debate again counted.[12]

A military coup took power on April 11, 2002, arresting Chavez. The U.S., aware of coup plans after hosting some plotters in Washington, immediately recognized the new “president.”[13]  But when all Latin America except Colombia and El Salvador withheld recognition or condemned the coup, it was crippled. 

Within 48 hours, supported tacitly by loyal military, Chavez had been replaced in power by “the people.” That is the best word for the convergence of hundreds of thousands of unarmed, unorganized citizens on the presidential palace on April 13. Summoned city-wide by community media and teams of motorcycle riders, the throng was too large for the opposition-controlled police to gun down.  Faced with this popular determination, coup leaders fled and Chavez, held on a Caribbean island, was freed. Only thus backed by the people’s action did he feel empowered to move on oil.  The last straw came at the end of 2002 with a costly oil strike, again designed to unseat him. Chavez replaced 18,000 officials in PDVSA, truly taking the state oil bureaucracy under public control.  Production re-started.


Oil-lubricated Bolivarian Social Programs


Dismantling of the class structure that had been protested in the caracazo started in 2003 when oil revenues were first directed to social programs rather than to the elite. It meant a lot to Luis, our co-op taxista.  Two of his five sons were in the military, a daughter was studying petroleum engineering, another had a beauty shop.  All were in vocational or professional studies  --  thanks to use of $3.7 billion US from oil for education and other programs in 2004 alone.[14]  Pre-strike production levels were regained by the end of 2003. Venezuela grew by 17.9% in 2004 and is estimated to have grown 9.4% in 2005  --  highest and next-to-highest in Latin America, respectively.[15]  At the same time continuing flat employment figures are reflected in the thousands of informal economy stalls visible all over Caracas; activists are complaining of bureaucratization in lower levels of government;[16] and turnout for the December 2005 parliamentary elections was only 25%  --  very low even allowing for the opposition boycott.[17]  It is too soon to say the new system works, or even what it is, but thanks in no small measure to record high oil prices, it has survived its birth trials.

Rumsfeld recently dismissed Chavez by saying Hitler had also been elected.[18]  Yes:  once.  Luis noted that since 1998, Chavez had been re-confirmed six times by majorities of around 60%.[19]  Chavez’s democratic legitimacy is solid (perhaps too solid:  the 1999 constitution allows for successive 6 year terms).

The “dignity” Luis felt (his word), was due partly to programs in education,

health, food, and cooperativism.  Their effects been to empower the poorest and initiate transforming the system.  After participating in the WSF from January 24 to 29 we checked on these programs.  Las Casitas, a proud section of the famous 23 de Enero barrio, had beat back gangs and corrupt police well before Chavez. It had successfully completed the national literacy program and had a community kitchen and center, a health clinic, and even its own video documentary collective. If Chavez strays from the revolutionary path, neighborhoods like Las Casitas will quickly let him know. 

Since 2003 adults have been assured of an elementary education and high school and college dropouts of any age may finish their studies. We visited a “Barrio Adentro” clinic (“inside the neighborhood”) that delivers health care to the poorest with the help of 14,000 Cuban doctors, administered by community residents in person.[20]  UNESCO calls this “participatory” system “a model of universal primary health care.” A branch of the national Mercal supermarkets selling staples at 40% discount  --  mostly from domestic co-ops to ensure “food sovereignty”  --  is also community-run. Banks have been started for small businesses and cooperatives, the military has been set to work on public works, and several subway systems are under construction. A land reform that rewards production and threatens to expropriate mere speculative landholding, while also encouraging cooperatives, is much needed in a country that imports 80 percent of what it consumes. But is this revolution or clientelism?

Our Argentina stop had left us puzzling over Peron’s legacy. We heard a bit of worshipful gratitude in Luis’s voice when he spoke of Chavez and wondered if it indicated the passivity that we’d been told Peronism was about.  Not at all, we concluded.  Evita had given away fridges and houses and elementary readers of that era told school children that she loved them. Chavez is using available means to deliver health care and education as public goods for all, not just for this or that beneficiary.  And, unlike the Perons, Bolivarian self-sufficiency leaves new facilities in neighborhood rather than national control.  Evita had bestowed gifts, a dis-empowering practice; Chavez seeks to place the guarantee of rights in local hands  --  an empowering one. We believe it was to this new confidence that Luis was referring when he said anyone wishing to depose Chavez would have to answer first to the Venezuelan people.

To conservatives who resist all redistribution of wealth, such Keynesianism may look like authoritarian socialism.  But the Chavez policies described so far, like those of Roosevelt in the 1930s, only redistribute surplus to fix market failures.  Arguably, this is not revolutionary, Bolivarian or other. Unless control of generators of wealth is moved into the people’s hands, such policies may even prop up class structures.  And indeed many socialists who consider themselves to the left of Chavez complain that his government has not yet nationalized big industry.  But is the Bolivarian revolution making Venezuelans inventors of their own future or mere clients of a system created for them by others?


Cooperatives as Instruments of Revolution


The Bolivarian revolution aims for “socialism for the 21st century” Chavez announced in early 2004. At the 2005 World Social Forum, following his electoral victory at the end of 2004, he called himself a socialist, adding: “We must reclaim socialism as a thesis, a project and a path, but a new type of socialism, a humanist one that puts humans, not machines or the state, ahead of everything. That is the debate we need to promote around the world.” Chavez has wisely left open the definition of this socialism. Defenders say it means worker’s control of the means of production, not state control.  Encouraging;  but is it also true?

Ask Zaida Rosas. A grandmother with 15 grandchildren, she is one of 209 workers in the Nucleo Fabricio Ojeda (nucleus) textile co-op, staffed mostly by jobless neighborhood women. Their homes on the surrounding steep cerros (hillsides) in west Caracas were almost all self-built, like those of over half of Venezuela’s population, though these risked killer mudslides. We dropped in with an associate of Carmen Bohorquez;  Zaida broke from her work to welcome us. She explained that to prepare the Ojeda workers to collectively run a business, the cooperative education department had given them scholarships (80 dollars a month) to train in cooperativism, production and accounting. The Ministerio del Economia Popular (the Ministry of the Popular Economy) coordinated the process.  “My family is a lot happier and I’ve learned to write and have my 3rd grade certificate,” she said. The co-op had not been her only option.  Since the new constitution recognizes housework as economically productive, she could have had a social security pension as a housewife, Zaida said proudly. The co-op had no union and, starting in early 2005, had voted as equal income for everyone profit shares amounting only to the minimum wage.  This was “so we can pay back our loan,” she explained.  With 7.4 million dollars in oil ministry loans and grants this “nucleus of endogenous development” had hired a local bricklayers’ cooperative to build the two co-ops, clinic, supermarket co-op, school and community center that make up the nucleus. Angel, the coordinator, aims to work himself out of his job:  “We, the organizers, are not going to be here forever.  The nucleus must be strengthened and the community and its cooperatives must be able to sustain it.  We transfer power to the community, but the community must be prepared to take over.  It’s all part of the ongoing struggle to create 21st century socialism.”[21]

Almost everyone we met was involved in a co-op of one kind or another.  As of mid-2005 over 70,000 co-ops had been registered in farming, retail, tourism, waste disposal, taxi-driving  --  all sectors.  Zaida’s case showed the movement’s Cinderella side.  But Luis, president of his taxi co-op, expressed impatience with complaining neighbors who had cars:  “all they need is to get the training, register, and they have their own taxi co-op.” State banks and ministries offer generous terms for co-op start-up and buy-out loans.  Over 260,000 citizens have received co-op training, reports Juan Carlos Loyo, deputy minister of the Popular Economy, “then they organize themselves and come up with a project, financing is sought, and they start to produce.”  Initiatives like the 125 endogenous development nuclei account for only part of the 200,000 which Loyo estimates are in the new co-ops, whose explosive multiplication began only in mid-2004.[22] Big companies going belly up are first asked, then forced (with compensation), to turn over reins to workforces, often to be “co-managed”  --  with 51% held by the state and 49% by the co-op.[23]  But like Luis’s, most new co-ops are member-owned and member-generated, often from the informal economy.[24] Efficiency is demanding that co-ops engaged in production, processing, distribution, commercialization and consumption link up in “productive subsystems” or “clusters.”[25] Though set in motion by government policy, the cooperativization movement, key to what Venezuelans call “the process” (meaning: their revolution), is generating its own momentum.

“Endogenous development” is Venezuela’s alternative to waiting on markets and foreign investment to meet needs.  The wait has proved too long.  In the major policy documents “endogenous development” means, then, “To be capable of producing the seed that we sow, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, the goods and services that we need, breaking the economic, cultural and technological dependence that has halted our development, from within.”[26]  This phrase “from within” implies that dependence was a choice that was made, and can hence be unmade in favor of independence and economic autonomy.  But then meeting needs by endogenous development calls in turn for cooperativism: “It is understood that together people are powerful.  Alone they are not.  Working as equals, Venezuelans understand that they can fulfill their collective needs.  Doing a productive activity, creatively, where technology and popular knowledge unite with beliefs, customs, and the environment.”[27]  This is summed up in the mission with which the Ministry of Popular Economy was charged at its founding in September 2004. Promotion of cooperatives and other self-sustaining productive units is to be its mission not principally in order to provide employment, but rather because cooperatives are a central component of “an economic model with a rationality centered toward collective well-being rather than capital accumulation.”[28]  For the Bolivarian revolution it would seem that cooperatives are not just a means to the 21st century socialism that is sought, but themselves a part of that very end itself, hence of value in themselves.

This pursuit faces minefields of risks and obstacles , as its critics point out.  Since the Law on Cooperatives requires that a cooperative’s contract workers be offered membership after 6 months, a pool of roaming wage workers is accumulating who switch co-ops every 5 months.[29]  The 585 million dollars that in a mere two years has gone into “endogenous development” will have been thrown into a bottomless pit if groups register as “co-ops” to get founding loans and grants, then scatter.[30]  Since the Law on Cooperatives favors co-ops in awarding government contracts, phony ones are elicited just to win such prizes. And nothing is keeping a private, hierarchical capitalist firm from parading as a co-op for the sheer pr value.  Again, since many cooperatives contract with the government, spontaneous job creation is difficult, making co-ops poor weapons against unemployment.[31]  And what happens if, this dependence on government having been cultivated, the government contract ends?  Doesn’t state financing violate the cooperative movement’s commitment to self-financing?[32]  And in the case of “co-management” of major strategic enterprises, with the state as majority owner, how do you avoid a sort of German “mit-bestimmung” in which managers and union members sit together on the same board whose aim can only be to generate more profit for absentee owners (in this case the state)? 

Disarmingly, all of these risks are acknowledged.  Popular Economy Minister Elias Jaua himself admits that “there are many cooperatives that are registered as such on paper, but which actually have a boss who is paid more, salaried workers, and unequal distribution of work and income.”  As a remedy Jaua said the Superintendence of Cooperatives has launched a program of inspection “to make sure they aren’t being used as a smokescreen for some groups to cling to privileges.” Loyo asks for patience: “We know that we are coming from a capitalist lifestyle that is profoundly individualistic and self-centered,” adding “our idea is to lay the foundations for a new socioeconomic model.”  Oscar Bastides, a researcher in the Center for Cooperative Studies at the Central University explains waste by haste:  “This happens because of the improvised way in which many cooperatives have been organized.”[33]  But policy makers still insist co-ops beat capitalist firms at their own game.  Relieved of financial burdens of absentee shareholders and costly managers, run more transparently and efficiently with so many owners’ eyes on production, co-ops are simply more productive and profitable.  Elias Jaua even admits the alternative economy and the capitalist economy “are not mutually exclusive.”  Yet cooperatives are also for Jaua truly revolutionary since “The national private sector can understand the process and incorporate itself into the new dynamic of society or it will be simply displaced by the new productive forces which have a better quality production, a vision based much more on solidarity than consumption.”[34]  They are betting that once launched, cooperativization will unfold in a “virtuous circle” of more cooperativization, as conventional workforces demand similar control of their work. 

As for co-management of large firms co-opting workers, Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of the UNT labor federation, acknowledges the risk:  “Our biggest preoccupation with this process of co-management…is that we make sure not to run the risk of converting our comrades into another neo-liberal capitalist and we are able to see beyond that towards the necessity of the community, how we use this to benefit those who have been excluded, who aren’t employed, how we go about creating a whole new socialist culture surrounding property and the generation of benefits.”  As a solution Chavez has proposed that all such large public enterprises be transformed into the newest form invented by the Bolivarian revolution: Empresas de Produccion Social, enterprises of social production.  For example, instead of being surrounded by its present belt of misery, the Cacao Sucre sugar plant would set aside a portion of profits to fund local community projects in health, education, housing and employment. Without loosing sight of the risks, you can’t help plugging for these gamblers who are betting that co-operativization will construct socialism.


Another attempt to build socialism?


We are all too familiar, with the last attempt to build socialism, which was confused with government ownership of the means of production.  Masses of workers first rallied to the Russian revolution under the slogan “All power to the soviets,” soviets being committees of workers that governed workplaces.  But the slogan was dropped as state power got diverted to mustering national defense against encirclement by the Bolsheviks’  enemies.[35]  A similar case:  the autonomous agricultural co-ops created by Cuba’s first revolutionary agrarian reform were made “people’s farms” at the first hint of nascent markets and differences in wealth, though the conversion had the paradoxical effect of re-proletarianizing rural workers.[36]  Immediately after Algeria’s “revolution of national liberation” had forced the French out in 1962, agricultural workers spontaneously seized the plantations on which they had worked.  Instead of supporting them in this revolutionary initiative, the new government thanked them for their efforts and asked them to step aside for “experts” from the central bureaucracy, who, taking over, promptly returned the insurgents to passivity.[37]

         But Venezuela is showing that a quite different notion of socialism is possible, workable and desireable.

Take the story of “Catia TV” as told by J.P. Leary.[38]  It shows how a government gift without strings, and accompanied by training in its use, can be empowering.  This small community station in the Catia section of west Caracas antedates Chavez.  However it has always sought to be a clear alternative to mainstream print and broadcast media, which today are almost totally controlled by the opposition. After the caracaso, these mainstream media had cheered the repression, including killings in Catia, discrediting themselves.  In the 1990s community media began to grow, without ceasing to remain marginal.  Then in 2001, under Chavez, a media deregulation law gave radio and TV licenses to local and non-profit organizations, regardless of political affiliation.  As intended, this boosted community groups like Catia TV.  TV in Spanish is pronounced “te ve” (sees you) so Catia TV means “Catia sees you.” But a confrontation came in 2003 when, to protect opposition control of media, an opposition mayor closed Catia TV. Loud neighborhood protest got it re-opened.

Human Rights Watch has said that the 2001 media law was so “vaguely worded” as to open the door to potential abuse that would “undercut” free speech.  At the same time, it also praised the absence of government censorship in Venezuela.[39]  Catia TV’s defenders grant that mainstream stations lost some audience, and that provisions of the law may be vague.  But they emphasize that community media like Catia TV has given many more citizens a new, direct access to the media. Its coverage is largely from teams of neighbors to whom it has loaned cameras. Leary reports that these teams are asking questions like “What is the main problem here?”  “Do you have clean water?” Engineer Gabriel Gil repeats the station’s slogan, “Don’t watch television, make television. The idea is that the communities make television and they communicate with themselves this way, through the neighborhood broadcaster.” Unlike the mainstream media, which are platforms for single voices speaking at others, community media like Catia TV are local forums belonging to multiple voices talking with each other.  Such use is also available to the opposition. 

Collective creativity is liberated by such government give-aways accompanied by transfer of practical knowledge.  Re-casting Catia TV as a tool of control would be hard.  Leary explains:  “A phrase uttered constantly by almost everyone at Catia TV, ‘tomar la palabra,’ is difficult to translate: it literally means ‘take the word,’ but it can only be rendered in English metaphorically, as in ‘take the floor.’ The distinction is significant. [A station leader says]: ‘Catia TV strives to ‘give the floor’ to all those who never had the opportunity to take the floor. And this bothers some people a lot.’” State power can confer goods in ways that liberate or in ways that tether recipients.  Catia TV is so far a case of the former. When in 2003 it was re-claimed by its neighborhood, a power that had been given away by the national government was used by the people against the municipal government. Was state power used irrevocably in this case for transformatory empowerment? Was this a self-devolution of state power that proportionately increased the power of citizens who did not have such power before?  It is too soon to say.  Meanwhile, initiatives like Catia TV are surviving and prospering amidst the Bolivarian revolution.

Venezuelans have demonstrated that a third-world nation can defend its sovereignty and invent ways to confront and transform the current capitalist system  --  and still survive. Re-cycling exploitative relations of production has under-developed Venezuela for centuries; undoing the result will take determined effort over at least decades using all resources, including state power. We think Venezuela’s struggle to realize the empowering capacities of the solidarity economy demands solidarity of all who reject the image of humanity projected by capitalism and affirm the possibility of a new socialism.  It is not at all clear that Venezuela’s effort will succeed. Much depends, for example, on whether the Bush government continues or abandons its campaign to bring Chavez down and whether the U.S. citizenry will tolerate the extensive imperial aggressions involved if it undertakes the latter project.  But that is another story.



[1] Richard Gott, In the Shadow of the Liberator: The Impact of Hugo Chávez on Venezuela and Latin America (New York: Verso, 2000), Ch. 3.

[2] See Morality and History, Sartre’s unpublished ethics of the mid-1960s, or our report on it.  Bowman and Stone, “The End as Present in the Means in Sartre’s Morality and History,” Sartre Studies International, Vol. 10, No 2, 2004.

Birth and Re-inventions of an Existential Moral Standard

[3]Cf. Ivan Musicant, The Banana Wars:  A history of United States Military Interventions in Latin America (New York: Macmillan, 1990).

[4] The mechanism of this dominance was uncovered in Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch’s seminal 1959 article showing that “free” exchanges concealed a discriminatory mechanism operating in the evolution of prices over time, a mechanism whose normal and legal working has tended to punish weak countries in the global South, and reward their more affluent trading partners. “Commercial Policy in the Underdeveloped Countries,” American Economic Review, Vol. 49 (1959), No. 2, pp. 251-273.

[5] Hilary Wainwright, “The Emerging New Euroleft” Nation, April 10, p. 20-24.

[6] International Monetary Fund, “IMF Executive Directors and Voting Power,”

[7] Sue Branford and Bernardo Kucinski, The Debt Squads: The U.S., the Banks, and Latin America (New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd, 1988).

[8] David Chandler, “’International Justice,’” New Left Review 6, November-December 2000.  Chandler argues that absent equal sovereignty among nations there can be no international law.

[9] Carmen Bohorquez, Francisco de Miranda, précurseur des indépendences de l’Amérique Latine (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998).  Bohorquez directs a world network of intellectuals and artists.

[10] The capital flight was equal to half of Venezuela's annual oil income, according to Kenneth Maxwell, “The Long Shadow of Hugo Chávez: A Sympathetic Book Defends Venezuela's Strongman,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2000.

[11] Economist Intelligence Unit, Venezuela Country Reports for 2004 and 2005

[12] See Gott, op. cit., Ch. 4.

[13] Washington Post, April 13, 2002, p. 1

[14] Associated Press, “Venezuela’s Oil Wealth Funds Social Programs,” St. Petersburg Times, May 8, 2005.

[15] Latin Business Chronicle, Special Report “GDP Growth:  Venezuela Best”; Ivan Briscoe, “Venezuela:  A Revolution in Contraflow,” February 2, 2006,

[16] Ivan Briscoe, ibid.

[17] Turnout in the 2000 elections had been 56% according to BBC News:  “Venezuelans ‘lost faith in polls’” 6 December 2005.

[18] Derrick O’Keefe, “Showing their desperation:  Rumsfeld compares Chavez to Hitler,” Venezuelanalysis, February 7, 2006

[19] Julia Buxton, “Venezuela’s Contemporary Political Crisis in Historical Context,” Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 328-347, 2005, p. 329, 331.

[20] Jane Monahan, “Venezuela looks to boost social spending,” BBC NEWS, Dec. 12, 2005.

[21] Humberto Marquez, “State-Financed Experiments in Venezuela’s Solidarity Economy,”, November 28, 2005.

[22] Humberto Marquez, ibid.

[23] Iain Bruce, “Chavez calls for democracy at work,”  BBC August 17, 2005.

[24] Conversation with author and Venezuela observer Steve Ellner.

[25] Sarah Wagner, “Vuelvan Caras:  Venezuela’s Mission for Building Socialism of the 21st Century,”, July 8, 2005.

[26] From Vuelvan Caras Official webpage, as quoted by Sarah Wagner, ibid.

[27] “El Desarrollo Endógeno y la Misión Vuelvan Caras,” as quoted by Sarah Wagner, ibid.

[28] Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, “The New Cooperative Movement in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Process,” Venezuelanalysis (on line), December 17, 2005.

[29] Personal conversation that the authors had with Steve Ellner.

[30] Humberto Marquez, op cit.

[31] Ivan Briscoe, op. cit.

[32] Humberto Márquez, op. cit.

[33] Humberto Marquez, ibid.

[34] Federico Fuentes, “Venezuela:  Expropriations, cooperatives and co-management,” Green Left Weekly, March 20, 2006.

[35] Samuel Farber, Before Stalinism: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy (London:  Polity/Verso, 1990).  Farber points out that the policy was abandoned before the start of the civil war.

[36]Bob Stone, ”Introduction:  The Agrarian Sector,” of Special Issue on “Cuba in the 1990s,” Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring-Summer 2001.

[37] Ian Clegg, Workers’ Self-Management in Algeria (New York:  Monthly Review Press, 1971).

[38] J.P. Leary, “Caracas’s Barrio Newswire,” Z Magazine OnLine, March 2004, Vol. 17, No. 3.

[39] Human Rights Watch, “Venezuela: Media Law Undercuts Freedom of Expression,” See:

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