The tragedy of Venezuela

As the Maduro regime tries to impose its new Constituent Assembly as a rival or replacement of the existing Venezuelan Congress and arrests the leaders of the pro-capitalist opposition, the dire economic and social situation in the country continues to worsen.

According to the IMF, Venezuela’s GDP in 2017 is 35% below 2013 levels, or 40% in per capita terms. That is a significantly sharper contraction than during the 1929-1933 Great Depression in the US, when US GDP is estimated to have fallen 28%. It is slightly bigger than the decline in Russia (1990-1994), Cuba (1989-1993), and Albania (1989-1993), but smaller than that experienced by other former Soviet States at the time of transition, such as Georgia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine, or war-torn countries such as Liberia (1993), Libya (2011), Rwanda (1994), Iran (1981), and, most recently, South Sudan.

So, on this measure, according to Ricardo Haussman, former chief economist of Inter-American Development Bank, Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the US, Western Europe or the rest of Latin America.

Back in 2013, I warned that the achievements of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ under Chavez were seriously under threat.  Chavez had improved the conditions of the poorest with increased wages, social services and reduced inequality.  But these improvements were only possible within the confines of capitalist economy by using the revenues of oil exports at a time of very high global oil prices.  But oil prices started to mark time and have virtually halved in the last two years.

Oil exports fell by $2,200 per capita from 2012 to 2016, of which $1,500 was due to the decline in oil prices.  The Maduro government started to rack up huge foreign debts to try and sustain living standards.  Venezuela is now the world’s most indebted country. No country has a larger public external debt as a share of GDP or of exports, or faces higher debt service as a share of exports.

The government resorted to the devaluation of the currency to boost dollar revenues, but this only stimulated outrageous inflation and cuts in real wages.  At the same time, the government decided to ‘honour’ all its foreign debt payments and cut imports instead.  As a consequence, imports of goods and services per capita fell by 75% in real (inflation-adjusted) terms between 2012 and 2016, with a further decline in 2017.  Such a collapse is comparable only to that of Mongolia (1988-1992) and Nigeria (1982-1986) and bigger than all other four-year import collapses worldwide since 1960.  This led to a collapse in agriculture and manufacturing even larger than that of overall GDP, slashing almost another $1,000 per capita in locally produced consumer goods.

The minimum wage – which in Venezuela is also the income of the median worker, owing to the large share of minimum-wage earners – declined by 75% (in constant prices) from May 2012 to May 2017.  Measured in the cheapest available calorie, the minimum wage declined from 52,854 calories per day to just 7,005 during the same period, a decline of 86.7% and insufficient to feed a family of five, assuming that all the income is spent to buy the cheapest calorie. With their minimum wage, Venezuelans could buy less than a fifth of the food that traditionally poorer Colombians could buy with theirs.

Income poverty increased from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by Venezuela’s three most prestigious universities. The same study found that 74% of Venezuelans involuntarily lost an average of 8.6 kilos (19 pounds) in weight. The Venezuelan Health Observatory reports a ten-fold increase in in-patient mortality and a 100-fold increase in the death of newborns in hospitals in 2016.

According to a study carried out between October and December 2016 by Caritas Venezuela, in collaboration with Caritas France, the European Commission and the Swiss Confederation, there are clear indications of chronic malnutrition among children in Venezuela. In some areas, it reaches levels close to what, according to international standards, is a crisis. The report says: “Insecure and irreversible survival strategies are being recorded from an economic, social and biological point of view, and the consumption of street foods is especially worrying.”  “According to a survey conducted in June 2016 in the state of Miranda, 86% of children feared to run out of food. Fifty percent said they went to bed hungry for lack of food in their homes. “

Erika Guevara, director of Amnesty International’s Regional Office for the Americas in June 2016, wrote:  “J.M. Children’s Hospital. Of the Rivers in Caracas, once a source of pride as a model of pediatric care in Venezuela, today is a tragic symbol of the crisis that is sweeping this South American country.  Half the gigantic building is collapsing, the walls stagger, the floors are flooded and the rooms are so deteriorated that they are no longer used. Halfway through, hundreds of children are being treated. But both medicines and basic medical supplies are in short supply, and the children’s mothers have already given up ordering them. (…)”. The Voices of Hunger, a report made by Telemundo and led by the Venezuelan journalist Fernando Girón, shows how Venezuelan children fight with birds of prey for bones discarded by butchers (El Nacional, 02/28/17).

Before Chavez, most Venezuelans were desperately poor after a series of right-wing capitalist governments.  But now once again, under Maduro, this is the situation for the poor and the majority of the Venezuelan working class.  No wonder support for the Maduro government has subsided while the forces of reaction grow stronger.  While the majority struggle, many at the top of the Maduro government are as comfortable as the Venezuelan capitalists and their supporters who are trying to bring the government down.

The Maduro government is now relying increasingly not on the support of the working class but on the armed forces.  And the government looks after them well.  The military can buy in exclusive markets (for example, on military bases), have privileged access to loans and purchases of cars and departments, and have received substantial salary increases. They have also won lucrative contracts, exploiting exchange controls and subsidies, for example, selling cheap gasoline purchased in neighboring countries with huge profits.

As Rolando Asturita has pointed out in a series of posts.  the army has strong direct economic power, since the FANB directs and controls a whole series of companies: the bank BANFANB; AGROFANB, for agriculture; EMILTRA, transport; EMCOFANB, company communications systems of the FANB; TVFANB, an open digital TV channel; TECNOMAR, a mixed military technology projects company; FIMNP, an investment fund; CONSTRUFANB, constructor; CANCORFANB, Bolivarian Mixed Company; Water Tiuna, water bottling plant; And then there is CAMINPEG, the anonymous military, mining and oil and gas company.

Many of the Maduro government elite have used the economic crisis to their own personal benefit.  They have bought up government debt for rich returns, while at the same time ensuring that there is no default, all at the expense of falling living standards for the people who must pay this debt through taxes and foregone oil revenues.  Foreign exchange earmarked for the payment of foreign debt has been offset by the reduction of imports of food, medicines or essential industrial inputs.

So, as anti-government protestors fight the police and army on the streets and the Maduro government moves ever closer to outright authoritarian rule, the working class is left in the cold.  The economic and social program of the opposition is the traditional one of the national capitalists backed by imperialism: namely, reform of the labor laws (ie more exploitation and sackings), privatization or re-privatization of state enterprises, deregulation of controls over investment (ie ensuring a high rate of labor exploitation) and, of course, the lifting of price controls and exchange reunification. The implementation of this program would impose even more losses on the majority.  As would the planned sanctions by US imperialism and its acolytes in the region.

What went wrong with the laudable aims of Chavismo? Could this tragedy been avoided? Well, yes, if the Chavista revolution had not stopped at less than halfway, leaving the economy still predominantly in the control of capital.  Instead, the Chavista and Maduro governments relied on high oil prices and huge oil reserves to reduce poverty, while failing to transform the economy through productive investment, state ownership and planning.  Between 1999 and 2012 the state had an income of $383bn from oil, due not only to the improvement in prices, but also to the increase in the royalties paid by the transnationals. However, this income was not used transform the productive sectors of the economy.  Yes, some was used to improve the living standards of the most impoverished masses. But there was no plan for investment and growth.  Venezuelan capital was allowed to get on with it – or not as the case may be.  Indeed, the share of industry in GDP fell from 18% of GDP in 1998 to 14% in 2012.

Now the right-wing ‘free marketeers’ tell us that this shows ‘socialism’ does not work and there is no escape from the rigors of the market.  But the history of the last ten years is not the failure of ‘socialism’ or planning, it is the failure to end the control of capital in a weak (an increasingly isolated) capitalist country with apparently only one asset, oil.  There was no investment in the people, their skills, no development of new industries and the raising of technology – that was left to the capitalist sector.  Contrast that with ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, albeit in the largest country and now economy in the world.

Just over a year ago, I argued in a post that, to save the aims of Chavismo, “it is probably too late, as the forces of reaction gain ground every day in the country.  It seems that we await only the decision of the army to change sides and oust the Chavistas.” 

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73 Responses to “The tragedy of Venezuela”

  1. standardstuff101 Says:

    They haven’t lost yet. Better to concentrate on defending the Maduro government against imperialist aggression than this hand wringing despondency from afar. Especially when the fascists are on the march, the real question is what should the left do. If Maduro falls to the right there will be a bloodbath. UK, US and other lefts can say they were right. But still a bloodbath. I don’t find this post serious at all.

    • Anti-Capital Says:

      Substitute “Allende” for “Maduro.” Tell me if there’s a lesson that should have been learned from 1973– like no support for popular front governments, actions independent of the government to oppose reaction, organization of workers defense groups and councils along the line of cordones to break the bourgeoisie’s strike?

      I don’t find a post blindly defending Allende read Maduro government, which defense will inevitably lead to a bloodbath, at all serious.

  2. louisproyect Says:

    Michael, I value your analysis of the capitalist economy very highly but I think that your analysis of the problems of building socialism needs some work especially after I clicked the link in the article above to your one on China. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky et al believed that socialism was a world system just as capitalism before it. The notion of building socialism in a single country was an “innovation” of Joseph Stalin that in the long term proved unworkable. The USSR had immense natural resources, a powerful military and buffer states against the West. If Hugo Chavez or Maduro for that matter had taken the sort of steps that Fidel Castro took in 1960, the country would have suffered the same fate as Nicaragua in 1990. The USA tolerated Venezuela to some extent because it understood that “21st Century Socialism” was basically an attempt to create something not that different from Costa Rica in the 40s to the 70s until neoliberalism sank in. Although this article was answering another critic of Chavismo, some of what I wrote applies here:

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/26/92966/

    • sartesian Says:

      So says the unapologetic endorser and fan-boy of Syriza. The shorter version of Mr. Proyect’s homily for Chavez-ism is derived, not from Marx, but from Thatcher: “There is no alternative.”

    • Edgar Says:

      Chavez was not trying to build socialism in one country but was in fact trying to develop transnational South American organisations to coincide with the so called left wind taking place there. That wind turned out to be more of a fart. The idea that Chavez was trying to build socialism in one country is pure unadulterated dogmatic prejudice. Chavez took the view, and you can argue with whether he was right or wrong, that you couldn’t go from the conditions Venezuela was facing right to a valueless economy in one small step. Chavez took a long term view and concentrated on raising levels of education and introducing radical texts to the masses. The bleating leftists of the West really should spell out how Chavez should have preceded and why their schema would have worked better. I will not hold my breath!

      The USA, like they have done in Ukraine, would not tolerate any transnational organisations that stood outside its hegemony. They therefore, having lost election after election took the same course of action as they did in Ukraine, ferment unrest until the situation became untenable. The fact that Maduro is still winning elections is testimony to the achievement of the Chavez revolution.

      It is incumbent on socialists not only to support the rebels in East Ukraine fighting an illegitimate government but also support the legitimate government of Venezuela currently fighting rebels, rebels who throw grenades into polling stations while being lauded by the heart of the empire.

      When Marx was writing his great works capitalism was not a world system of any kind, not even close. So if Marx did believe it was a world system then he believed in fairy-tales, because in every concrete way it wasn’t a world system at that point. So capitalism is a world system and it isn’t one!

      If Proyect in some way supports or supported Syriza it only proves that even a stopped clocked is right twice a day.

    • James Says:

      Good observation, although each of the proponents mentioned held slightly different conceptualisations of socialism, none achieved the gross bastardisation of Marxism of Stalin, a dictator and anti internationalist who should not be considered as a Marxist unless it’s through the tinted lenses of American propaganda (cold war).

  3. MB Says:

    This is still missing some observations such as the fact that recession had likely begun by the final quarter of 2013—many months before oil prices started to collapse. The tendency towards crisis of the Venezuelan economy—even under the boom years—needs to be examined. Also missing is the 2014 macroeconomic shift when, with the sackings of some senior Chavistas such as Giordani (and his famous open letter), the Maduro government consolidated the interests of the military-capitalist sector and started doing the aggressive fiscal adjustment policy of cutting back imports in favour of debt repayments, which as you rightly point out are a main source of income for the parasitary sector.

    In the end all this will remain mostly academic and probably only going to be looked at with proper attention when the regime collapses and/or the military switches sides and stories get written about how it came to this. For now the focus should be on stopping U.S. intervention and shoring up the grassroots against the next wave of adjustments, likely to be administered by the opposition or a national unity government —the ones that will really push people down into the level of starvation.

    • sartesian Says:

      You can’t stop US intervention without (mercilessly) criticizing Maduro and organizing a revolutionary movement to replace the “Bolivarian” caretakers of capital.

  4. Daniel Rocha Says:

    The pseudo-socialism of China was based on previous solid scientific foundations done during the socialist period. It was not like they started from nothing, from no scientific bases, from where they built the productive forces. They had the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb and the first satellite by 1970. And all these require a solid development of many sectors of industries. Now, the case of Venezuela is different, and analyze the GDP is not good due fluctuations of oil price. In any case, I agree that there should be more development of industry, thought that would require first an independent development of science, at least in some fields. If they went just the way of pseudo Chinese method, it would be certainly worse in this moment because they’d suffer the same problem of Cuba after the revolution, which would be the lack of people who know how to operate machines.

  5. Virgens Kamikazes Says:

    Most of the sources mr. Roberts quote are fake news. I have contacts in Venezuela and the situation is not nearly as horrible as those universities and NGOs claim. I’m not even going to get into the corruption accusations, which mr. Roberts writes without giving us a source.

    Yes, the failure of Chavism to get Venezuela out of the petro-State economy is already recognized as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, errors of Chávez era. The task was not and is not simple — the PDVSA has a life of its own, it is a State within the State, where the core of the most reactionary middle class lies — but that was not an excuse to not trying harder.

    The problem in Venezuela now is simple: it is, since 2002, in a de facto civil war. The right-wing controls the middle class, the capitalist class and the petit bourgeoisie plus a big part of the PDVSA. The besieged their own country with a permanent lockout, which closed the groceries and stopped the circulation of food (the production of grains in Venezuela has been rising; the problem is the distribution). This led to the development of an aggressive black market, which plummeted the Bolívar to calamitous levels.

    Maduro still counts with about 60% of the population. In this last election, 8 million people voted, compared with 7 million who voted in the illegal, unnofficial mock election organised by the right. The rumour that Maduro doesn’t count with the majority support is bogus.

    Democracy is not an universal value, class struggle is. The constituint is technically legal under Venezuelan Law. The right-wing declared war. They must be crushed by whatever means necessary — even if that means murdering 7 million people.

    • Daniel Rocha Says:

      I’d agree with you almost 100%. The point is that, unfortunately, there is USA to stop revolution from happening at a neck break speed. Also, these opposition votes are mostly likely bluff or just people ignorant of the reason of the votes. You can see, by the type of clothes of the people who are more aggressives on the protests, that these are well off people. The strikes emptied the streets. This is a sign of a petit burgeiosie protest. Owners of business not opening and people had to stay at home. The strongest resistence is tiny angry minority. So, it is not like there will be millions of deaths. Most probably, they will try run away, just likely it happen in Cuba.

    • sartesian Says:

      Want to explicitly oppose and disassociate myself from any connection with this comment by VK: “even if that means murdering 7 million people.”

      If “it” whatever that it is means murdering 7 million people, then “it” was a failure from the getgo and “it” was never a revolution to begin with, and that those pretending to be revolutionaries are incompetents.

      Anybody who advocates murdering 7 million people, thinking such mass murder will secure a revolution is quite simply crazy.

  6. Norvis Bracho Says:

    I strongly do not agree with your first statement in your article let me tell you that Maduro DID NOT IMPOSED the new constituyeny national asembly, Maduro called a popular national election which is within the law, the Venezuelan voted with a 41% of population to have a National Constituyente. All within the law, the oposition did not participated because they didn’t want, they wanted to carried on their terrorists tactics. Your article only talks about the effects of crisis not the causes.

  7. Joe S. Says:

    “They just didn’t do socialism hard enough!”

    Baloney. If they do more socialism they will collapse even faster.

    • SimonH Says:

      Two thirds of the economy is in private hands yet you think Venezuela is doing too much socialism? Not that I expect you have anything close to a rigorous definition of socialism. If you read the article btw you’ll notice that economic collapse on this scale is usually associated with Depressions or, this is important, the restoration of capitalism in former socialist countries.

      • Joe S. Says:

        They banned profits, banned money trading, and seized all the factories. Those factories lay silent. They collectivized the farms, and the fields lay fallow. Only little bakeries and bodegas were left unseized.

        Economic diversification reduced under the revolution. Farms are now collectively operated, and yet they used to export food but now they have to import it.

        Why is the Kimberly Clark factory silent long after being seized? Why is the GM plant still silent after being seized? Why is oil production down by more than half?

        I’ll tell you why: Because when you seize the means of production for socialism, it stops producing.

  8. louisproyect Says:

    When Marx was writing his great works capitalism was not a world system of any kind, not even close.

    “Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?”

    Engels answered:

    No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.

    Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany.

    https://louisproyect.org/2015/05/18/socialist-revolution-in-greece-easy-to-say-harder-to-do/

    • marthajpc Says:

      Marx expected industrial capitalism to spread globally. It was more close to global by his death than being “not even close”.

      In his reply to Russian socialists about the possibility of a socialist revolution backed by peasant soviets, Marx, very reservedly, responded with a yes–but with the qualification of the need for the support (or at least non-interference) of key advanced bourgeois states–this, though knowing and despising the trend toward reformism among many social democrats.

      That trend quickly became a black hole that continues to spit anti-communist assholes out the other end.

      In choosing to act rather than allow February’s “revolutionaries” to continue providing cannon fodder for western capital, the Bolsheviks inherited war, the chaos and hunger produced by mass population displacement to the cities, a peasant/worker insurrection, direct imperial intervention, and, finally a contra-style, genocidal, civil war.

      I’d say that as responsible revolutionaries they had no choice.

      Blind anti-sovietism among socialists helped to create the stalinist reaction, and, by conflating revolution with empty terms like authoritarianism and totalitarianism–and contra-style revolutionaries with the real thing–destroyed the socialist movement. Which human beings like Chavez will rebuild.

      Of course, Engels has to be respected. Maybe he was affected by the Commune–that both he and Marx did not abandon. I’m with that dialectical Engels, and with Marx, Dante (who reserved the deepest circle of hell for fence sitters), and with Hamlet:

      “There’s more in heaven and earth [Louis] than dreamt of in your philosophy”.

    • sartesian Says:

      Well, yeah, it was a “world-system’ by the time Capital, The Civil War in France were written. The Civil War in the US, the reaction against Reconstruction proved that. The impact of the Suez Canal, the Meiji period, the cultivation of cotton in India, and Egypt; the “concessions” “won” from the Ottoman Empire, pretty much make it painfully clear to the most casual observer how “worldly” capital already was– a “worldliness” that increase during the long deflation 1873-1895– which saw the movement of US capital into Mexico (railroads, hemp plantations); a period of tremendous displacement and migration of rural populations throughout the world do to rising agricultural productivity in the US, Argentina, Australia, etc.

      Of course a revolutionary wave does not take place in one country alone, but it gets manifested in individual countries with individual particularities. In any case, the revolution very well can begin in one country, but cannot be sustained, without expansion into other countries. Kind of the most obvious meaning of the Russian Revolution, no?

      But to use that as an excuse for arguing “there can’t be a revolution” or “that this is all we can expect” for supporting an Allende, a Lula, or Correa, or Tsipras (all that “how will Greece survive with the Euro?” blubbering) or Maduro– for endorsing programs and policies that lead to….exactly what they have led to over the last 40 years has to be the nastiest trick of the pseudo-Marxists.

  9. Juampa Says:

    “As the Maduro regime tries to impose its new Constituent Assembly as a rival or replacement of the existing Venezuelan Congress and arrests the leaders of the pro-capitalist opposition.” Oooh, this statement makes me remember the way mass media makes reference to Venezuela. Why these words: regime? impose? arrests? I disagree, as it a government, as democratic or more than others in Latam, with a presidential system, so being the president who has the power of launching a Const. Assembly, unlike the Congress, and those arrested are terrorists, so the problem does not lie in their views.

  10. Boffy Says:

    The real tragedy is that once again large numbers of people on the Left jumped on to a bandwagon of some “Left” demagogue, and failed to criticise the politics and inevitable consequences of those politics for the working-class, in this case in Venezuela. Its a repetition of George Bernard Shaw and Stalin all over again, and similar to the way sections of the Left gave adulation to Castro, without criticising the actual Stalinist nature of the regime.

    In the case of Chavez, he never was a “Marxist”, or even a socialist. He was a left bourgeois nationalist, much like Cardenas in mexico in the 1930’s, though the two regimes were not the same. There was a potential to have built an actual socialist movement in Venezuela from the huge mass organisations of the working-class that developed, but that socialist movement had to be built within those mass organisations against Chavez not as an uncritical prop to his regime.

    When Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, he supported the nationalisation of the oil companies as necessary to the development of the economy, and called for the defence of the country against British imperialism, but at the same time, Trotsky did not shy away from criticism of the Cardenas regime, or from calling on his supporters in Mexico to reject the Oehlerite sectarianism of those who would stand aside from the mass movements, on the basis of keeping themselves pure and separated from the regime.

    Nothing good for the working-class was going to come from the Bonapartist, bourgeois-nationalist regime of Chavez. It was only going to come from socialists and Venezuelan workers developing their own mass organisations in opposition to that regime, and going beyond it. How many times does this have to happen before some on the left learn to base themselves upon the working-class, and not the latest demagogue.

  11. jlowrie Says:

    I must express my agreement with each of sartesian’s comments. The piece by Virgens ( divine winds?) Kamikazes strikes me as a provocation. Michael has to demand an immediate retraction. it is indicative moreover that they do not offer any detailed refutations of Michael’s analysis. Is it true or not that there is economic collapse in Venezuela? ”Democracy is not an universal value, class struggle is.”
    Well, however well-intentioned Chavez was, the results of his pinko liberalism are now before us. He significantly failed to wage a relentless class struggle against the bourgeoisie and institute a genuine democracy. Elections by ballot are the mark of an oligarchy.
    Give me ‘stalinism’ anytime. Which brings me to Louis Proyect.

    ‘The notion of building socialism in a single country was an “innovation” of Joseph Stalin that in the long term proved unworkable.’

    Really, this is not the view of the anti-stalinist Erik van Lee ( “The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin” 2002) who attributes the concept to Vollmar, Kautsky and Lenin. He quotes Lenin, ” The unevenness of economic and political development is an unconditional law of capitalism. it follows from this that the victory of socialism initially in some or even one country is is possible.” And by 1923 Lenin even claimed that Russia provided ‘all that is essential for the construction of a full socialist society.” ( Quoted in E.H.Carr ”Socialism in One Country” Vol.2 p 50). Even Stalin himself acknowledged, ”The victory of socialism is not a self-sufficient task….it is the beginning and the premiss of world revolution.” (IBID. p51). Bukharin’s biographer and admirer Cohen attributes the origin of the concept to him. An altogether more sophisticated analysis is given by R.B.Day, himself a Trotskyist ( ”Leon Trotsky and the Politics of Economic Isolation” 1973). ” Trotsky did not insist, as is so often suggested, that a genuine construction of socialism must await the international revolution. Least of all did he predict that without a socialist transformation in Europe Russia must necessarily stagnate.” ( Ibid. p6) Day’s book is outstanding.

    ”The notion of building socialism in a single country……in the long term proved unworkable.” This is a non-sequitur. Leaving aside the fact that The Soviet Union was not a single country, perhaps the reasons for failure lie with the faulty policies of the Party. Just take the phrase ‘building’ or ‘constructing socialism.’ How about the transformation of social relations? How about the nature of political power? We need to produce the correct socialist policies We will get nowhere with the excuse of Stalin as the diabolos ex machina of revolutionary contradictions. Concrete ideas are necessary. The impossibility of ‘socialism in one country’ as an explanation of failure is a metaphysical abdication of genuine historical analysis, a phrase that explains away every socialist historical movement by explaining nothing, and allows its propagator to bathe in the righteous glow of a superior self-satisfied ‘I told you so!’

    • Boffy Says:

      The concept of Socialism In One Country was developed by Stalin, and more specifically it became the basis of the Stalinist policy worldwide of sacrificing international socialism, and socialist struggle elsewhere to the protection of the USSR. As an antidote to the Stalinist claims that Lenin supported the idea of Socialism In One Country – as opposed to Lenin’s actual position that it was possible (and indeed undoubtedly inevitable given combined and uneven development) for a socialist revolution to be successful in One Country, as a prelude to revolution on a wider scale – I would recommend reading Trotsky’s refutation of all of those bowdlerised versions of Lenin’s position contained in the Appendices of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”The concept of Socialism In One Country was developed by Stalin” ‘ I would recommend reading Trotsky’s refutation of all of those bowdlerised versions of Lenin’s position contained in the Appendices of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.’ Well, I have read these appendices and I did not find them at all convincing. Really, the so-called debate is akin to a ‘how many bolsheviks can dance on the head of a Leninist thesis?”

        I recommend instead Day.

    • Daniel Rocha Says:

      Virgens means virgins in english. It means in English, Virgin Kamikazes. It’s a person (or a group) of people that makes political cartoons, from Brasil. I haven’t seen them active for about a year, though. But there won’t likely get a retraction from sheer hatred that has being built lately.

      Nearly all left, including the lightest, imploded along the worker’s party after its tremendous push to the right. They put everyone that put in the government all those that made a palace coup. Now, what is leftovers in some meaningful numers are, only opportunistic leftists (more like liberals) and some opportunistic ultra leftists (these are not electoraly strong, but they tend to organize support among large sellout unions). I think the worst thing the Workers Party did was sanctioning the terrorist laws. So, if someone acts agrily during protests, the pollice can act together. So, if some cover up cop (it happens frequently) do something violent, it can derail everything.

  12. SimonH Says:

    Yes I agree the comment by Virgens should be taken down, it is disgusting. Now I understand Virgens may have been just expressing anger but the neat thing about the internet is that you can actually edit your outbursts or not make them at all (online anyway). He chose to post, angry or not and he should be held accountable.

  13. louisproyect Says:

    he impossibility of ‘socialism in one country’ as an explanation of failure is a metaphysical abdication of genuine historical analysis, a phrase that explains away every socialist historical movement by explaining nothing, and allows its propagator to bathe in the righteous glow of a superior self-satisfied ‘I told you so!’

    Oh, sure. Building socialism in Greece, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua was eezy-peezy. But instead of applying a correct revolutionary program based on the proletariat, all these pseudo-leftist leaders decided that they preferred capitalism when push came to shove. Instead of such sell-outs, we need courageous, determined, principled revolutionaries of the sort that post comments on blogs such as this.

    The joke is that there is a direct proportional relationship between Internet windbags and their actual record of activism. It is a Walter Mitty complex that reveals a sputtering, phrase-mongering crowd that operates on a strictly idealist basis. The problem with a Daniel Ortega or a Hugo Chavez is that they lacked a correct “program”, not that the relationship of class forces constrained the possibilities of what could be done.

    What was the last “successful” proletarian revolution? Cuba, obviously. What was the relationship of class forces? There was a Soviet Union that was willing to arm Cuba, defend it even if poorly, and that was willing to buy sugar at above world market prices. And what was the program of the July 26th Movement? It was more Marti than Marx, after all.

    • sartesian Says:

      “Oh, sure. Building socialism in Greece, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua was eezy-peezy. ”

      Nobody said that. Period. What was, and is, being said was that cheerleading support for Tsipras, Ortega, Chavez was counter to “building socialism;” and would lead to the collapse of the SOCIAL MOVEMENT that could form the basis for a revolutionary transformation of Greece, Nicaragua, Venezuela… as support for the KMT, the Popular Front, the Unidad Popular led to the crushing of the possibility for social revolution in China, Spain, Chile… ad nauseum.

      ” But instead of applying a correct revolutionary program based on the proletariat, all these pseudo-leftist leaders decided that they preferred capitalism when push came to shove. Instead of such sell-outs, we need courageous, determined, principled revolutionaries of the sort that post comments on blogs such as this.”

      Nobody said that here. YOU, othoh, did say something very close to that on other platforms, like your marxmail list and/or your blog– when you argued that the role of Marxists vs a vs Syriza was to “keep them honest” and if Syriza did not keep its “promises,” ally with the left wing of Syriza to replace the unprincipled capitulators with the authentic revolutionaries in Syriza’s left wing.

      “The joke is that there is a direct proportional relationship between Internet windbags and their actual record of activism. ”

      Says the ultimate internet windbag.

      ” The problem with a Daniel Ortega or a Hugo Chavez is that they lacked a correct “program”, not that the relationship of class forces constrained the possibilities of what could be done.”

      Again, nobody said that. Except you. Others, not quite so prone to windbaggery and misdirection, began the criticism of Ortega or Chavez with the recognition that the relation of class forces constrained the possibilities of what THEY– Chavez, Ortega, the “Bolivarians” the FMLN– COULD DO, and that the Bolivarian movement and/or the FMLN was and would remain fundamentally incapable of changint that relationship of class force, BECAUSE of their collaboration, accommodation, of sections of the bourgeoisie, and to the bourgeois relations of production.

      Interesting to see that our internet windbag no longer considers the defeat of the US in Vietnam to be a successful proletarian revolution..

  14. Autumn Cote Says:

    Would it be OK if I cross-posted thyis article to WriterBeat.com? There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I enjoyed reading your work. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

  15. louisproyect Says:

    Interesting to see that our internet windbag no longer considers the defeat of the US in Vietnam to be a successful proletarian revolution.

    Of course it wasn’t. It was a successful war of national liberation, just like the FLN in Algeria. A proletarian revolution is a synonym for socialist revolution. Within a decade, not only had capitalism persisted in the south but had overtaken the north as well. Algeria was another case of thwarted social change, not that the FLN had a socialist program.

    Here’s the point, Sartesian. You are a 70+ year old man who has spent the past 15 years at least spouting revolutionary rhetoric but have not done a single thing that qualifies as activism. You are basically an Internet troll.

    You are fond of denouncing me as a pseudo-leftist traitor. Okay, I am a pseudo-leftist traitor but at least I have acted on my beliefs. What actions have you taken? What risks? You are an armchair revolutionary just like every other Internet troll. Talk is cheap, as they say.

  16. jlowrie Says:

    ”Oh, sure. Building socialism in Greece, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua was eezy-peezy.” Really, eezy-pizzey?” How would Proyect know? Am I supposed to understand that Ho Chi Minh was a pseudo-left leader who spent his whole life fighting for capitalism?

    ” but at least I have acted on my beliefs.” Yes, you have really manned the ideological barricades of film criticism on behalf of the Ukrainian Nazis’ production ”Bitter Harvest”. Even the very right-wing
    British intelligent agent Robert Conquest, formerly in charge of
    British black anti- soviet propaganda (recipient of an award from George Bush) finally admitted that the Ukrainian famine was the result mainly of natural causes, but not Proyect. He is bound to get an award too: maybe the Bandera Medal for anti- soviet propaganda!

  17. sartesian Says:

    I’m not going to waste everybody’s time with responding on this platform to Louis’ evasion of content, and his attempt to turn this into a pissing match.

    Anyone who wants the details can contact me privately at my email address, or via The Wolf Report, and I’ll be happy to provide them.

    Proyect and I have a deep, noble, and entertaining, so I’ve been told, history of mutual dislike, and that’s putting it mildly.

  18. Codesria Says:

    Since this is an economics blog, perhaps a refutation of the pro-government claims of economic warfare would be appropriate:

    The visible hand of the market. Economic War in Venezuela by Pasqualina Curcio.

    http://www.alainet.org/en/articulo/184345

  19. johnlewisgrant Says:

    Nothing has changed. Washington can rest easy in the knowledge that the left is as divided as it ever has been, as so clearly evidenced here. Yet another nascent attempt at bringing social democracy to some small part of the US sphere of influence is likely to be buried. Notice, I said “social democracy”, not “socialism”, because ideologically things are just….well… that bad. That’s what’s at issue, isn’t it? Socialism was never really on the table.

    • S.Artesian Says:

      Social democracy hasn’t been on the table in decades. That’s the point about supporting an Allende, or a Tsipras– fundamentally it’s less realistic than the “unrealistic” “ultra-marxists” who insist on advancing a social revolution.

      • louisproyect Says:

        Artesian has no concept that words are incapable of changing society. This armchair revolutionary writes comments as words had magic. He needs a wand to go along with his act.

      • sartesian Says:

        “Artesian has no concept that words are incapable of changing society. This armchair revolutionary writes comments as words had magic. He needs a wand to go along with his act.”

        Hilarious. So says our r-r-r-r-evolutionary movie reviewer, who writes words for Counterpunch, the North Star, the Unrepentant Marxist– and who believes in the magical words of pro-capitalists like Tsipras and Syriza; or the revolutionary magic of those “leaders” of the r r-r-r-evolutionary governments committing troops to the occupation of Haiti, a la Bolivia.

        I agree, words by themselves are incapable. Words + analysis + CLASS, however, that’s a whole different ball game.

        Nope, words can’t change society, but ovations for hero-guerrilla-Marxist Vice Presidents of the MAS government in Bolivia, who find it ever so practical to contribute soldiers to MINUSTAH– that changes everything, doesn’t it Proyect?

        Remember when Garcia Linera showed up at the Left Forum, little Louie? You attended, I know that. I did not. I protested the presence of Garcia Linera. Pretty much by my lonesome, after having used words to urge a boycott of Left Forum; “standing up”– to use your activist vocabulary– for what I believe – which is no support for any government supporting UN/US led occupations. Where were you, little Louie, beside inside I mean?

        Did you stand up, and walk out because of your woke support for “self-determination of nations”? You, and we all, know you didn’t

        Speaking of standing up, did you give Garcia Linera a standing ovation when he spoke (damn! words, again), Louie? or did you keep your seat (maybe to hide the boner you got when he told you how important Indianismo is to rescuing Marxism)?

        I know, I know, I don’t understand the special circumstances of the “Bolivarian revolution” in Bolivia itself, the nuances of the indigenous peoples’ revolt, because unlike Proyect, I’m white, male, Yankee; unlike Proyect I’m living in the Yankee-ist of Yankee imperial centers; (and unlike Proyect, I don’t even have a basement).

        I know I just don’t understand how the circumstances in Bolivia, the primitive accumulation, the looting, the blahblahblah, makes it necessary for the Bolivarian Revolution of Bolivia to rent out its military to the UN and suppress the people of Haiti, who, after all aren’t really Latin American.

        “Yes, indeed, self-determination for the nations of the Bolivarian revolution, and fuck you Haiti, none of that for you– you’re not really “indigenous”– being black and all that,” such are the DEEDS, not words, of the friends of Louis Proyect.

        Little Louie would like us all to ignore that; to cut the Bolivarians some slack. They’re only doing it for the money.

        Exactly. They– our so-called revolutionists are only in it for the money.

        Proyect is, using words quite literally, enough to gag a maggot.

        If I ever did believe in magic, if I ever did have a wand, the first thing I would do is make Proyect disappear. Poof.

    • jlowrie Says:

      ” words are incapable of changing society. This armchair revolutionary writes comments as( if) words had magic.” So on all those weary days that Marx trudged his way to the British Museum in order to do his research he had no idea that ‘words are incapable of changing society’. He had better have stayed at home, which on the occasions that he pawned his coat he was so obliged. If only he had been acquainted with the philosophy of proyectism he might have saved himself those visits to the pawnshop!

      Now, I do seem to recollect that somewhere Marx says that when ideas have gripped the people they become a material force. My memory may be wrong ( I should appreciate the correct reference), and it may have been that well-known armchair revolutionary Mao Tse Tung when he was on The Long March. Louis, instead of pontificating from the comfort of your own armchair, go take a hike! Maybe some good ideas will come to you en route, of course in the form of words.

      • sartesian Says:

        And speaking of words– Michael, you really have to do something about Virgens Kamikaze’s endorsement of mass murder.

        It’s your website, after all, you can do as you please. That’s exactly the point.

      • jlowrie Says:

        Agreed! Clearly a provocation!

  20. Nekto Says:

    This interview with Venezuela’s Minister of Economic Planning might be interesting.

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19519

  21. Edgar Says:

    For the last time they were and are not trying to build socialism in one country. They are attempting to build the movement the chauvinistic and prejudiced Western left keep bleating on about! Put it this way they are building something more concrete and socialist than any advanced nation left movement has managed, including whatever it is Corbyn is trying to build. They have looked to build a movement across Latin America, and whether they fail or not you cannot lay the blame at their lack of internationalism or their lack of proletarian character.

    Boffy possibly represents the very very worst of the nauseating chauvinistic and prejudiced Western left who pontificate about nations they know nothing about. And this pontificating contains zero analysis but instead is full of and punctuated by sectarian left nonsense such as Stalinist, Left nationalist, demagogue, Bonapartist. The Western left cannot look at the developing world without seeing demagogues everywhere. Boffy and the other Western leftists, who I can only conclude have had one too many Starbucks, are incapable of bringing even a scintilla of analysis to these issues and end up totally missing the character of these movements.

    The character of this movement is a proletarian one, and a socialist one (more socialist than Corbyn for sure). For actual analysis of the situation in Venezuela first try this article on the attempts to build a cooperative movement in Venezuela by the Chavez government,

    https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11034

    But whatever you do, DO NOT LISTEN TO WESTERN LEFTISTS with THEIR PATHETIC SECTARIAN BAGGAGE.

    Capitalism was not a world system in Marx’s day and it has certainly not always been a world system, simple as. Proyect’s argument against this is the following:

    “the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany”

    That is four nations!! Count them four! Four nations constitutes a world system!

    Marx himself wondered if Russia could miss out the entire capitalist development and all that entails and move straight to communism!

    • sartesian Says:

      “But whatever you do, DO NOT LISTEN TO WESTERN LEFTISTS with THEIR PATHETIC SECTARIAN BAGGAGE.”

      Edgar,

      Couple of months ago, you were writing

      “While I wouldn’t say that Corbyn makes the bourgeois tremble he certainly freaks them out! He represents what they fear more than anything else, a growth of working class consciousness, a challenge to what they believed was their unchallengeable authority.

      Corbyn is their worst nightmare and he very nearly became a reality.

      So think of the challenge to the power of the bourgeois in this way and work it out from there comrade!”

      and following that up with this:

      “Success for Corbyn has the potential to create a much longer and deep seated progressive change than Lenin or Allende managed.

      Yes he didn’t win but given the obstacles that were in his way this result is incredible and already the Tories look to be in turmoil.

      No one should underestimate what a profound moment it would be if Corbyn were to ultimately win. If comrades are blind to this our enemy are not.”

      So I hope you’re not offended when I ask “What gives?” or… WTF? I mean how is anyone to distinguish among western leftists and the different iterations of sectarian garbage, including that sectarian garbage that claims Corbyn as the greatest anti-capitalist ever in Western European leftism since……..Benn? Kinnock? Foote? Mitterand? Togliatti? Malraux? or maybe De Gaulle?

      I’m not just taking the piss here. You simply can’t write what you wrote about Corbyn, then follow it up with your blanket condemnation of “pathetic” “Western leftists” without placing yourself squarely in that pathetic tradition of Western leftism. Or you can, but it doesn’t change the fact that cheerleading for semi-socialist social democrats of the radical sort is integral to the pathetic tradition of Western leftism, whether those semi-socialists be of the “first world” type, or the “3rd world” type.

      The so-called “Bolivarian movement” really doesn’t even measure up, in terms of programs, and attempts at social transformation, to those of Allende’s Unidad Popular, and we all know where that got the working class, don’t we.

      In fact, Chavez and his “ismo” doesn’t measure up even to Bolivar, much less Allende. Bolivar at least recognized the failure of his project; the impossibility of its victory without a social revolution, overthrowing the exact relations the revolution had preserved and institutionalized: “”Fellow citizens! I blush to say this: Independence is the only benefit we have acquired, to the detriment of all the rest.”

      You can blame “euro-centric” or “euro-chauvinist” marxists all you want, when it comes to Latin America. And I’m sure someone will come up with parallel denunciations in the attempt to support Corbyn as once upon a time anti-imperialist. Doesn’t matter.

      You can denounce the nefarious plottings of US capital in alliance with the Venezuelan bourgeoisie from now until eternity, as has been done, and is still being done by those seeking to resurrect the corpse of Allende from the wreckage of the Chilean revolution.

      All that…..all that amounts to nothing but an evasion. Of course the US plots; of course its suborns the “local” bourgeoisie; of course the bourgeoisie do what the bourgeoisie do. That’s more than expected. It’s compulsory…for the bourgeoisie. They, at least, are conscious of the need to protect their property.

      The problem with “Bolivarian” movements is that it cannot, will not confront that need to abolish that very same property relation.

      • Edgar Says:

        The pathetic bit is writing off every developed nation movement or any movement for that matter that doesn’t quite conform to your expectations. While at the same time supporting the developing nations weaker movements. Now that doesn’t apply to you, you simply write off every movement. Seriously, what is the point of you?

        I support Corbyn as Labour party leader and think he represents a sea change and potentially a profound change, where did I say I otherwise?

        I don’t see your point or the sense in what you are saying

      • Edgar Says:

        That should read developed nations weaker movements

      • sartesian Says:

        I write off no movement, and certainly not the conflict between means and relations of production that drive the class struggle behind and within those movements. I do think that all the expressions of those movements that you advocate supporting are, at their best, nothing but analogues to the Provisional Government, during the Russian Revolutionary struggle– destined and determined to oppose a class revolution– but let’s cede the point– let’s just say that’s my pathetic western marxist sectarianism exposing itself.

        So… Edgar, give us your scenario as to a successful outcome of the situation in Venezuela, what that would look like; and most importantly, what it would take to get there; and if the Maduro government can get the “movement” to that success, why hasn’t it been able to advance to that point during the last 4 years?

      • Edgar Says:

        We should ask why the Bolivarian movement has been so successful, winning election after election despite the media bias, the inherent bias toward middle classes in the electoral map and an electoral system designed to make it difficult for the working classes to vote.

        This will give us a clue to answer your question about the successful outcome of the situation, though this being a process one outcome leads immediately onto the next. So if you expect a star in the sky you may be disappointed. A continuation of the past decades developments would be very much welcome and I am sure all socialists worth the name will do everything to support the Venezuelan government to continue the successes and achievements it has made so far. And I am equally sure the fake left, the arrogant left, the Western liberal left will sneer and turn up their noses to these achievements and decry the Venezuelan government. The very worst of these Venezuelan critics will use words like Stalinist, Left nationalist, demagogue, Bonapartist.

        The development will be as it has been, the working classes having improved access to better quality education, better public services and reductions in poverty.

        Let us look at a few notable stats:

        Reduced inequality by 54%
        Poverty reduced from 71% in 1996 to 21%
        Extreme poverty from 40% to 7.3%
        66% of population now receive old age pensions compared to 1.2% prior to Chavez
        Venezuela ranks 5th in proportion of university students
        Child malnutrition has been reduced from 8% to 2.9%
        96% of the population have access to clean water, surpassing the goal set in 2000
        Currently 58 doctors per 10,000 people, in 1998 was 18 doctors
        170% increase in clinics built
        Eradication of children living in the streets

        Can a white male Yank possibly relate to these achievements and conditions of existence? Apparently not!

        Rather than opposing class revolution these measures are facilitating it!

      • sartesian Says:

        We know why the Chavez government was so successful for so long a period of time– because it redistributed wealth, and that redistribution was greatly facilitated by the rises in oil prices, 1999-2001, 2003-2008, 2010-2014.

        The picture changes a bit, if we focus our gaze on the last 5 years. The statistics for the last 5 years indicate the reforms of the Chavez-Maduro government have hit their limit and the trend, the cycle, is moving in the other direction. According the data from the World Bank:

        Poverty rate between 2009-2015 increased by 25%
        The trend of annual GDP growth has been downward since 2005.
        Debt service payments as a percentage of exports have just about doubled.

        As for the improvements themselves, apparently lots of white male North Americans can relate to these achievements, because lots of white male North Americans support the Maduro government, and in just the terms that Edgar himself, who may or may not be white; may or may not be male; may or not be from a Western country, employs.

        But as noble as the measures of improvement under Chavismo are, or were,and the recent changes, those are really not the issue, nor the answer to the questions asked.

        The issue is, and the questions I asked the white/non-white, male/not-male, Yank/not-Yank/Brit/not-Brit/Western/non-Western, Edgar/not-Edgar,are not about social welfare indicators.

        The issues and questions are:

        1. is Venezuela experiencing an intensification of class struggle?

        If yes, continue. If not, go no further.

        2. Is that intensification of class struggle bound, of necessity, to lead to a civil war where one class abolishes the threat to its power, to its control of the existing (or a new) mode of production by another, opposing class?

        If yes, continue. If not, go no further.

        3. What will it take to defend a revolutionary struggle, bring that “new mode of production” into being, and protect the working class in Venezuela from physical, economic, social assaults like the sort inflicted on the workers of Chile in 1973, or Brazil in 1964, or Argentina in 1976, or…_________ (add your own here)?

        If your answer is, “uncritical support for the Maduro government, its policies, its institutions, and its personnel”, then explain how the Maduro government will prepare that defense, reverse the decline in the economy, secure that new mode of production.

        Take your time in answering, whitey

      • sartesian Says:

        Oh, almost forgot:

        “And I am equally sure the fake left, the arrogant left, the Western liberal left will sneer and turn up their noses to these achievements and decry the Venezuelan government.”

        Nice to see an authentic, humble, non-liberal leftist here getting in touch with his inner Trump. Fake left, arrogant left, liberal left…white left, male left, yank left……..feck it Edgar, you’re wasting your skills here, just start tweeting, man. I predict millions of followers at #realleft.

        Guess some have never gotten beyond the “can a white man sing the blues” stage of infantile leftism.

        Question was settled long ago, wasn’t it, maybe by Johnny Winters who proved that the whitest of white man could sing the blues, and play them, better than most…regardless of their color.

    • Edgar Says:

      There is of course critical support and no support and in the case of someone like Boffy hostility.

      I would not charactise your position as one that comes anywhere close to that of critical support but is more a sneering indifference tantamount to open hostility. And of course criticism involves both positives and negatives.

      Your position is to not look at the aims and objectives of the movement and what has been attempted to change the conditions of existence by the government and why those decisions were taken, yours is an ad hominem attack on the government using whatever is at your means.

      Yes in the last five years, a time of USA sabotaging, oil price instability, global economic uncertainly, some of the great achievements of the movement has suffered some setback, but this should not detract from the aims and the fundamental changes delivered by the government, changes which the Venezuelan working classes value, and they at least understand that the recent setbacks do not detract from the overall achievements, and do not invalidate the path the Venezuelan government have chosen. That path being the empowerment of the working classes, something the working classes are very much aware of.

      Of course to the leftist Yank in his ivory tower all this is beside the point, the mode of production hasn’t been changed therefore the movement is fake and illegitimate and didn’t I tell you so. And now a little trouble has been experienced you jump on it and like the sneering schoolboy in the playground you tell everyone how correct you were. And of course being the eternal cynic of movements you told us the movement was fake and illegitimate even when it was reducing poverty rates and reducing inequality.

      For every step of the real movement there you were you throwing insults and sneering!

      To answer your questions, Venezuela is encountering a counter revolution which occurs during every single revolution, no matter how small. The mode of production doesn’t come into the answer here, what comes into the answer is the classes themselves. The question is what will be the response of the working classes to this counter revolution. As things stand the working classes are supporting the government and are taking steps to defend its achievements. That is what it will take.

      The thing the sneering leftist can’t get his/her head around is that even if the movement fails that doesn’t mean it was invalid.

      Instead of standing with the working classes in Venezuela at this crucial moment your sneering along with the pathetic dogma of the Boffy’s of this world only gives support to the class enemies.

      This is why fake left is the perfect description for people like you.

      When you take your logic to its natural conclusion you are saying the following, “You have no hope, capitulate to the forces that are bigger than you”

      • sartesian Says:

        Thank you Mr. Bannon/Spicer/Kelly/Miller/Sessions/Jones,

        You left out “cosmopolitan.” Do try to remember to include all the lines when you’re channeling your Fake News fandom.

      • sartesian Says:

        Don’t want to give the impression that I am a bit deterred from dealing with the “substance” if the word can even be used here, of Edgar’s “it’s a black/3rd world thang; you whitey yankees wouldn’t understand” claims by the vituperation Mr. Edgar employs.

        Vituperation is, almost literally, mother’s milk to me. In most cases, Proyect being a specific example, I’ve been called worse things..and by better people.

        So feeling expansive, and well rested:

        Edgar: “And of course criticism involves both positives and negatives.”

        SA: And of course criticism does NOT involve both positives and negatives, certainly not in the Marxist tradition, where Marx himself calls for merciless criticism of everything in existence; not merciless positive and negative assessments. Nor does it involve both positives and negatives in the Leninist tradition (not that I am a Leninist, but I think Mr Edgar probably regards Lenin with some sort of respect). Think it was Lenin who referred to critical support as being the support the “rope gives the hanged man.” So that takes care of that.

        Edgar: “yours is an ad hominem attack on the government using whatever is at your means.”

        SA: Really, Mr. Edgar, get a grip. It’s impossible to conduct an ad hominem attack ON A GOVERNMENT. Logically, socially, grammatically, literally impossible.

        Edgar: “To answer your questions, Venezuela is encountering a counter revolution which occurs during every single revolution, no matter how small. The mode of production doesn’t come into the answer here, what comes into the answer is the classes themselves.”

        Fecking priceless, as my Scots friend would say. “Venezuela is encountering a counterrevolution….but the mode of production doesn’t come into the answer here.” Brilliant, we have a revolution, and a counterrevolution, in which the mode of production is……irrelevant. If that’s the case, then exactly what is propelling the revolution, and the counterrevolution? Exactly what are the bourgeoisie so desperate to protect if not their PROPERTY, their mode of accumulation, their CAPITAL, their mode of production?

        Exactly what is this revolution that doesn’t have a mode of production associated with it as an “answer” to the problems the revolution encounters?

        Exactly how is it possible for a CLASS to either defend or advance a revolution, or defend and advance a COUNTER-revolution without engaging without ANSWERING the question of the mode of production?

        Edgar: “You have no hope, capitulate to the forces that are bigger than you”

        Nope, that’s not at all what I say. I say, hope isn’t enough, and the forces ARE not bigger than ‘you’ or ‘us.’ The forces are the forces of a capitalist class that must be defeated by defeating precisely the capitalist mode of production which Mr. Edgar (possibly white, male, resident of a privileged advanced capitalist country Edgar) claims is irrelevant to the struggle, and to the classes involved.

        Of course this nonsense of revolution without the question of the mode of production is exactly the narrative that advocates of popular fronts have used everywhere and every time to obscure what is/was really at stack; to immobilize the revolution, and to pave the way for the defeat of the workers, by containing a class struggle revolution within the framework of capitalism, of “democracy,” of “class collaboration.”

        Remember what Hooper said to Larry Vaughn, mayor of Amity, in Jaws, “I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch.”

        All done wasting time with you, Mr. Whitey.

  22. Violetta Bella Says:

    Siempre he leido con interés tu análisis sobre las dinámicas actuales del capitalismo. Debo decir que este artículo sobre Venezuela deja mucho que desear.Reproduces todas las noticias falsas de los medios hegemónicos y ni siquiera consultaste con medios alternativos que te podrían dar una perspectiva más objetiva de lo que sucede en Venezuela . Nicolás no es ningún dictador, ni existe por parte del Estado una represión contra la oposición. Las capturas contra personas de la dirigencia de la oposición se deben a que de manera sistemática y especialmente los ultimos tres meses han encabezado y dirigido operativos terroristas como ataques a hospitales materno-infantiles, quemando a 30 personas chavistas vivas, ataques a escuelas, centros de salud, transporte publico y han generado una campaña neofascista marcando las casas de quienes apoyand el gobierno revolucionario y luego agrediendo a estas personas de mil y un manera. La votación de más de 8 millones de venezolanos en apoyo a la constituyente que significará la profundización de la revolución bolivariana en el ambito economico, poder popular, políticas sociales y resquebrajar el cerco del boicot economico interno y la impunidad ( no persecución de los delitos contra los responsbles de la guerra económica y violencia terrorista, responsabilidad de la ahora destituida fiscal general. Asi que quizás para los marxistas liberales cuesta entender que nosotros vamos a defender a esta revolución al costo de lo que sea, porque allí si se juega el futuro de nuestra patria grande, Asi que no trates de comparar nuestro modelo político con los de las democracias liberales, ni nuestros sueños que no caben en las urnas de ya desgastada democracia burguesa.

    • michael roberts Says:

      I translated from Google:
      I have always read with interest your analysis on the current dynamics of capitalism. I must say that this article on Venezuela leaves much to be desired. You reproduce all the false news of the hegemonic means and you did not even consult with alternative means that could give you a more objective perspective of what happens in Venezuela. Nicolás is no dictator, nor is there any state repression against the opposition. The catches against people of the opposition leadership are due to the fact that in a systematic way and especially the last three months they have led and directed terrorist operations such as attacks on maternal and child hospitals, burning 30 living chavistas, attacks on schools, Health, public transportation and have generated a neo-fascist campaign marking the homes of those who support the revolutionary government and then assaulting these people in a thousand and one way. The vote of more than 8 million Venezuelans in support of the constituent that will mean the deepening of the Bolivarian revolution in the economic sphere, popular power, social policies and to break the siege of internal economic boycott and impunity (non-prosecution of crimes against Who are responsible for economic war and terrorist violence, which is the responsibility of the now destitute prosecutor general. So perhaps it is difficult for liberal Marxists to understand that we are going to defend this revolution at whatever cost, because if we play the future of Our great country, so do not try to compare our political model with those of the liberal democracies, nor our dreams that do not fit in the polls of already worn bourgeois democracy.

  23. jlowrie Says:

    ”nor is there any state repression against the opposition.” That is exactly part of the problem. ”The vote of more than 8 million Venezuelans in support of the constituent assembly.” How many of these 8 million have been armed and grouped into popular militias?

    ”economic war and terrorist violence, which is the responsibility of the now dismissed prosecutor general.” Why was he not held to account earlier? Why indeed did such an office even exist? In a democracy such offices would be held by ordinary citizens for a year, after which they would render account to the assembly and return too their old jobs.

    ” already worn bourgeois democracy.” Leaving aside the fact that there is no such institution as bourgeois democracy, a contradiction in terms reflecting a contradiction between two class forces, the tragic heart of the matter is that Venezuela was and remains an oligarchy. So Chavez won elections? So what did that change? Exercising a right to vote is not exercising power. Remember old Mao’s adage: ”political power grows out the barrel of a gun”.

    ”It seems that we await only the decision of the army to change sides and oust the Chavistas.” Violetta may hide her head in the sand, but I fear Michael will be proven only too right.

    I trust Maduro and co. are not expecting any help from China and Russia, who have just delivered North Korea to the Yanks.

    • sartesian Says:

      ‘economic war and terrorist violence, which is the responsibility of the now dismissed prosecutor general.” Why was he not held to account earlier?’

      Think you gender blindspot might be showing, j.

      The attorney general so dismissed is a woman: Luisa Ortega Diaz– or at least she presents as a woman.

  24. jlowrie Says:

    Okay, LA destituidA, I should have got that.

  25. guerrien Says:

    I agree with Violeta. It is very deceptive to see that you incur in a really complicated question without studying it properly – as you seem to do with economic questions and marxism.
    All your quotations come from “oficial” media – “howling with the wolves”, as we say in France.
    Probably an (inconscient, obviously) remnant of the “white man” (european) supremacy, who know better than others what is good for “those people”.
    Before, I thought that you were a serious person. Now, I doubt ..
    Really sad

  26. Violetta Bella Says:

    Muchas gracias Michael.

  27. Mauro Costa Assis Says:

    https://choldraboldra.blogspot.com.br/2017/08/a-tragedia-da-venezuela.html

  28. Venezuela at a crossroads – The opinion of a Fat Belly Man Says:

    […] are without doubt deep economic problems in Venezuela and those problems have taken a sharp turn for the worse over the last two to three years. For an economy that relies on oil for 95% of its exports the […]

  29. proyectosindicato Says:

    Estimado compañero Roberts: como de manera habitual decimos por aquí, “ha meneado usted la cuerda en casa del ahorcado”.

    Pepe Tapia escribe, en el ensayo que usted recientemente ha comentado en otra de sus notas, que el marxismo terminó, en los hechos, por ser convertido en una religión sin dioses, pero con profetas. Y debería de haber agregado, además, “millones de creyentes”.

    No hay más que ver la airada reacción de sus incontables feligreses, frente a lo que usted escribe; y el número y la velocidad con la que han acudido a su blog, en defensa de la fe.

    De cualquier manera, camarada Michael, si hay algún tipo de marxismo genuino y que valga la pena, es aquel que no teme mirar a la verdad a la cara.

    Un afectuoso saludo,

    SWPM.

    • sartesian Says:

      There are some issues that need to be “unpacked” regarding statistics and the criticism of the use of statistics made by “proyectosindicato” and violetta:

      First are the statistics accuarate? For example, when CEPAL reports that infant mortality rates in Venezuela (children under 5) declined 33% between 2000 and 2015, is that accurate? Should it be referred to as a record of progress achieved under Chavez/Maduro?

      When CEPAL reports the increase in literacy rates, should that be regarded as accurate?

      When CEPAL reports the decline in poverty and extreme poverty rates to 2009, should that be regarded as accurate?

      I’m sure proyecto and violetta have no probem with accepting those statistics as accurate, at least in the reflection of the trend, if not to the precise decimal point.

      But if we accept those statistics for that period as accurate, are we now supposed to reject the statistics that show the flattening of the rate of reduction in poverty and extreme poverty rates since 2007, and the reversal of those declines since 2009, because…because why? Because CEPAL is prejudiced? Because it’s “capitalist”? And It wasn’t prejudiced and capitalist when it was recording the improvements in Venezuela.

      Come on. Cut the crap, the crap being denouncing the source on an ideological basis when you know longer like the numbers being issued.

      That’s one issue. The other issue is, are the statistics all that meaningful, relevant to the actual struggle in Venezuela. Again, I don’t think you say “Oh, yes they were…. when they were recording the progress made under Chavez; but now that they don’t indicate much progress, not so much.” That’s an ideological evasion of the concrete issues at stake. Have the terms of trade for Venezuela worsened, or not? Has industrial production declined or not. Has GDP growth, and GDP growth per capital been negative 6 of the last eight years, or not?

      I think the statistics whether positive or negative were not, are not all that relevant. The issue isn’t statistics; has never been the statistics. The issue is, and has always been the issue that gets so summarily dismissed– that of the mode of production; and the course of the class struggle precipitated by, driven by that mode of production.

      The problem is not, was not as Michael argues that Chavez did not embark on an accelerated, increasing, and increasingly rational program of heavy capital investment to diversify the economy. The problem is that the mode of production, interlocked on the national level with the requirements of that mode in its international manifestation, cannot, will not support such investment and diversification; the problem is without the overthrow of the class OWNING the mode of production, all talk about rational investment is just so much wishful thinking. So…

      So… that being the case, while the supporters of the Venezuelan revolution wax indignant about the ignorance, the blindspot, the lack of comprehension on the part of Marxists, the evidence is that they, he advocates of Chavismo, are the ones ignorant of the history of class struggle in their own continent and country; they are the ones blind to how these struggles get played out when the so-called revolutionists eschew the issue of the mode of production.

      I don’t think accidents of birth, like race, gender, religion, or country of upbringing and residence give anyone any access to greater understanding, greater militancy.

      I ask proyecto and violetta, and in all seriousness if they have ever, for example, studied the history of the Chilean Revolution 1970-1973? Have they ever studied the overthrow of Goulart in Brazil? The “second coming” of Juan Peron in Argentina in the 1970s and his role in the defeat and destruction of the very left “nationalists” who supported him leading up to the dirty war? The defeat of the struggle in El Salvador, the triumph of reaction in that civil war? The containment and reversal of the revolution in Nicaragua after the victory of the Sandinistas?

      Or before that, the ascendancy and defeat of the MNR and the workers in Bolivia?

      There is no evidence that they ever have.

      Yes, the US intervened, subverted, suborned, and organized counterrevolution… of course the US did and does. That’s what capitalism does. That’s what the capitalist mode of production requires of its agents.

      How do we defeat that? Clearly, only by developing tactics, strategy, program that abolishes that mode of production; that mobilizes the working class to take power through organizations of its own powers like the cordones in Chile, which organizations were effectively immobilized and suppressed by Allende’s UP government itself, after the cordones rescued that country’s revolution by taking over production and breaking the bourgeoisie’s lock-out.

      If that bitter truth upsets proyecto and violetta, it SHOULD. If it bothers them that a white male Yankee Marxist is bringing the issue forward, that’s a shame. And a pity.

      Pity is what you get when you’re helpless.

      • louisproyect Says:

        Artesian: “How do we defeat that? Clearly, only by developing tactics, strategy, program that abolishes that mode of production; that mobilizes the working class to take power through organizations of its own powers like the cordones in Chile, which organizations were effectively immobilized and suppressed by Allende’s UP government itself, after the cordones rescued that country’s revolution by taking over production and breaking the bourgeoisie’s lock-out.”

        Do people know that Artesian keeps a set of toy soldiers and toy proletarians in his basement that he plays with? He also wears a workers cap like Lenin’s as he goes about his mock revolution.

      • jlowrie Says:

        Do you mean proyect got into Artesian’s basement and was let out again? When comrade A goes to meet Marx he’s going to have some hell of an explaining to do!

      • sartesian Says:

        Worry not, comrade jlowrie, little Lulu has never been in my basement. I, on the other hand, have been in his “kitchen” a few times.

        Doesn’t mean I won’t have a lot of explaining to do when I meet comrade Marx; but at least I won’t have to explain how I lined up behind every social democrat (next up for Proyect, Corbyn, as Proyect is already on record as pro-Podemos) despite the glorious history the social-democrats have made for themselves as vassals of capitalism. I won’t be wearing the Proyect-branded TINA polo shirt.

  30. marthajpc Says:

    I’ve decided, despite my rusty Spanish to translate this post, because, like Violetta Bella, I was astounded that Michael appeared to parrot the capitalist media in condemning the Venezuelan government.

    It’s one thing to have to depended on capitalist institutions for economic data. The privately owned free market is actually opaque. Marxist analysis unfortunately must interpret what is revealed by the owners of the means of production and their state.Michael owes some of his his followers–not the likes of Boffy and Sartesian–but marxists like me and Violetta) an explanation of why the he chose to ignore alternative sources of information.

    Esteemed comrade Roberts: as we say here, you’ve pulled tight on the rope in the house of the hanged.

    Pepe Tapia writes in a piece that you commented on in another, recent, blog that marxism died through efforts to transform it into a religion without gods but with prophets. Moreover it has millions of believers. One has only to see the wrathful reaction from your countless, faithful parishioners, quickly coming to your blog to answer the call to defend the faith.

    If there is a genuine marxism–however presented and worth the effort–comrade Michael, it is a marxism that doesn’t fear to look truth in the face.

    Warm regards,

    swpm

    • michael roberts Says:

      Swpm, I did a rough translation of Violetta’s comment for readers of this blog as I thought it important. The tragedy of Venezuela is not easy to analyse. That does not mean that I support in any way the victory of the opposition led by the rich families and their imperialist backers. The question for me is what should the Chavistas have done and should do now.

      I dont think that I said what Pepe says – as far as I know. It does not sound like the way I put things.

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