Venezuela: Alberto Muller Rojas on the danger of bureaucracy

Alberto Muller Rojas interviewed by Vladimir Villegas

February 2, 2010 -- This interview was first published at Indymedia Venezuela on November 24, 2009. Vladamir Villegas is the former president of the state-owned Corporación Venezolana de Televisión (Venezuelan Television Corporation, VTV) network based in Caracas, and ex-Venezuelan ambassador to Mexico. Alberto Muller Rojas is the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It was translated by Sean Seymour-Jones and Tamara Pearson for

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Villegas: [You have said] 21st century socialism is a revision, a rectification of the socialist approach and that it isn’t trying to copy what happened in the Soviet Union. You believe that the Soviet model distorted itself because, among other reasons, it constructed a type of state capitalism. A public bureaucracy emerged, equivalent to that of any capitalist country and that bureaucracy totally disconnected itself from the masses.  And that isn’t happening here?

Muller Rojas: No. Here they aren’t forming enterprises of state capitalism. What they are forming are communal enterprises, even private enterprises. And they are giving loans to those private enterprises. And those enterprises will have to pay the taxes that the state establishes.

In order to make socialism of the 21st century, is a new bourgeoisie necessary in Venezuela?

The bourgeoisie isn’t necessary. And the bourgeoisie isn’t being stimulated. Of course, sometimes it's not the bourgeoisie that appears, but a bureaucrat. Here they call a middle-class person that isn’t middle or upper, the bourgeoisie... Those are people who until yesterday lived in shanty housing, and got themselves into the private bureaucracy and the government bureaucracy, which is the same thing. One needs the other. That isn’t a bourgeoisie.

But people are talking about a "Boli-bourgeoisie" that buys banks, insurance companies, that is in the oil business. Does that exist?

Yes. That exists and it’s one of the weaknesses of the process. It isn’t that they don’t do that. The problem is that you have to deal with them in the same terms that you deal with the old bourgeoisie… And they are receiving privileges.

Bureaucrats. Müller considers that there is an entrenched public bureaucracy in the government.

I believe that it committed an error when it placed itself parallel to individuals who are in the public bureaucracy as leaders of the party.

One of the things that causes the separation between the leadership and the base is that there are leaders with various posts in the government.

The only party that had some politically formed cadre was La Causa R and later the PPT (Homeland for All party). The rest don’t. The PCV (Communist Party of Venezuela) is a party that has been bureaucratised since the time of Medina. What they wanted was to dominate the union bureaucracy…And you can’t say anything better of the MAS.

But the president hasn’t wanted governors [who are] PPT cadre, for example ...

It’s just that what remains of the PPT are little more than bureaucrats. And those few are just looking for jobs [within the government]. And I said this to their faces. The leaders of the PPT who joined the PSUV debate within it. There, there is a debate…

And are they listened to by the president?

The minutes, with the resolutions of the meetings, are sent to the president and he takes them on board.

The president gives the impression that he is not very tolerant to criticism.

Nobody is absolutely insensitive to criticism. Nobody likes to be criticised. You have seen that I have publicly criticised him and it has annoyed him. For example, when I told him that he was sitting in a nest of scorpions.

And is he still sitting in that nest?

He is still sitting in that nest.

Are there less scorpions than before?

More or less the same amount. And some are the same ones who were there before. When the Baduel case happened, about which I had warned him, he called Vanessa Davies’ program when she was interviewing me, in order to reconcile with me and accept criticism as a good thing.

There are many criticisms of the actions of the government and it hasn't been noticed that in the PSUV there’s a debate questioning governmental administration.

Yes, there has been, and very harsh, for more than a year, with regard to some administrations, and the people responsible are being judged. Some people have developed terrible administrations and they are harming the credibility of the president himself.

Are there still people that are carrying out terrible administrations?

I think so. I have moved in different settings and I have heard the same criticisms from people and I have to agree that they are valid. The president has also been made to see that those functionaries don’t take the initiative and all the responsibility falls on his shoulders, negatively affecting the perception of him as a great man; because people ask themselves who chose them?

If he knows all that, why doesn’t it result in changes?

I ask myself that question, but there are strategic and tactical considerations that have to do with maintaining a certain balance and that necessitate making certain decisions with certain people that are key in a given moment. 

Chávez questioned the governor of Lara, Henri Falcón, but you don’t hear questioning of functionaries who perhaps have greater responsibilities in the administration. For example, in the area of housing.

But the person who is in charge of housing and the governor of Lara aren’t the same from a tactical and strategic point of view. That is how I respond to you … [See for background to events involving Henri Falcon, governor of Lara state.]

Fidel Castro said that he saw the possibility that right-wing governments might return in Latin America, and one thinks of Venezuela. 

That is a possibility. It happened in Argentina, with Peronism, which gave rise to a right-winger like Menem.

And the most recent case of the Sandinista revolution. Daniel Ortega committed a series of errors, lost power and Violeta Chamorro took over. The only thing that allowed for the restoration of Ortega in power is that the armed forces were Sandinistas. On the contrary, the Nicaraguan left might have received a blow in the same way that Carmona Estanga tried here.

Are the Venezuelan armed forces as Bolivarian as the Nicaraguan armed forces are Sandinista?

No. And there is an awareness of that. [The armed forces] are a bureaucracy, and they ruled by the codes of the bureaucracy. If a structure is bureaucratised, it thinks with bureaucratic interests. 

That is, many in the armed forces say “Homeland, socialism or death” as lip service?

Yes, as lip service.

And that situation can be reversed?

It was reversed on April 11 [2002, when a coup against the government was overturned].

Fidel Castro had Raúl as his successor. Does a Raúl exist here?

There is more than one person here who is truly revolutionary, but they are very respectful and understand the role that Chávez has played. At this time he is irreplaceable.

Who should be the PSUV candidates to the National Assembly?

The party congress will decide the slate of candidates. The worst thing that it can do is to ignore the desires of the base…. If we have an effective administration at the cost of a certain amount of support from our own bases, we are going to lose even more if we keep doing that.

Will Chávez be here for a while?

In the foreseeable future, yes. Although much will depend on the conditions in which the parliamentary elections take place. It is a vital situation for the process, and the important thing is that the party members understand that. I don’t think they are giving the elections enough importance, we maintain a misguided communication policy, are on the defensive, putting people like el Matacuras (Leopoldo Castillo) or Carla Angola in competition with Chávez …

As a matter of fact, the president called to talk with the allies…

I’m not against that, but it is good to remember, for example, that Lina Ron helped to construct the PSUV and later left it. She gambled everything and lost. 

The PSUV isn’t going to cede space to its allies?

It isn’t that we aren’t going to cede space, it’s that they don’t have any. What is the vote for PPT or for Lina Ron? They can’t even manage 0.5%. Who do they attract? If they think that they are going to have a bureaucracy at the expense of the PSUV it appears to me that we would be acting like idiots. That is my position, I don’t know if it is the president’s.

Do they want Henri Falcón to stay or leave the PSUV?

I don’t like it that a governor went to the elections with a different platform to that of the PSUV. That shows ambivalence and opportunism. He campaigned for his platform. I prefer that he had been associated, like the PPT or the PCV is, as an ally. But that ally can’t ask that they are treated the same as a member of the PSUV.

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