Submitted by admin on Wed, 06/09/2010 - 17:02
We can't keep going the way we are going. It is tearing up too much life. We must have peace, the earth needs love. Where do we look to find another way? What would a different society look like? How can we construct a society of cooperation, purpose, wholeness, and peace?
The Australia/Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) provided an opportunity to see such a society in construction...Venezuela up close and unedited. It was a great opportunity to be guided through the streets of Caracas and into the dialogs of Venezuela's community councils and socialist and labor organizations. We saw first hand the building of an alternative to capitalistic imperialism. They call it 21st century socialism.
We were a brigade, put together by the AVSN to get up close, under the barrage of anti-chavez propaganda. The brigade was provided with an opportunity to look into the structure and see the motivation of a 21 century socialist society. We were guided by leaders of the highest quality, and we were introduced to the people who make this history, and the reporters who tell it. It is the history of the mass of people opposed by the interests of private ownership of social wealth. The government of Venezuela has declared itself a socialist state and an ally of the people. In return the people are supporting the government, and their president, Hugo Chavez. It is nothing short of a revolutionary transformation of Venezuelan society.
Venezuela is doing this by putting the responsibility of governance into the hands of the governed. Chavez has declared his trust to be entirely with the people. It is his belief that the answers to social progress lie within the people. Venezuela's workers are being asked to self-motivate for socialist production in a structure not yet clearly defined. It is for the workers to show how this can be done, and for the people with their elected government to build an environment that will protect and facilitate this. According to Chavez, "There is no socialism without workers."
We were introduced at various places of work such as large nationalized factories, worker cooperative plants health and education, and local governing councils. We received talks and discussion with leading activists and journalists, that told the history of the process and the many political viewpoints within it. The discussion among us brigadistas was fun and often spirited, but honestly seeking the way forward on the "rumbo hacia socialismo."
One workplace we visited was an industrial firebrick plant. At this plant the ownership had decided to dismantle the factory and sell the equipment rather than continue doing business in Venezuela. The workers claim the bricks are needed and there is no jusitification for closing and dismantling the plant. Venezuela needs its own productive industry. The workers set up a protest to the closure and blocked the owners inside the plant, and appealed to Chavez for a resolution. The result was a buyout of the plant, with the workers left in charge of production. This is a huge challenge for the workers, but they guided us through their plant with pride and purpose. The plant was given a loan by the government that the workers must repay under terms and conditions. For the moment, the workers are organizing the project, considering various forms of management, engineering, contract arrangement and so forth. Classes and discussion groups go during the day to educate and inform and decide.
Similarly, but on a much grander scale was the nationalization of the SIDOR steel mill in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz. Thousands of plant employees were in conflict regarding contract talks with the Argentinian owners and directors. The plant argued it was unable to operate under Venezuelan law. Once again Venezuela bought out the ownership. This time, for the first year and a half the existing management had the major hand in decision. However, once again a conflict arose when the owners opposed and became uncooperative toward workers' demands of management. Chavez intervened again declaring to the workers that if classical management was unable to function then let the workers decide how to proceed, and he fired the balky managers based on their opposition to socialist management. The state owned petroleum industry, the largest industry in Venezuela was asked to provide managers to operate and teach management proceedures to the workforce. The workers also receive schooling during worktime including classes on theories of govenrment and the socialist state. As recently as one month ago, Chavez visited this plant and turned over the works to the people themselves, with the blessing, protection and encouragement of the Venezuelan state. One outstanding request is to work immediately to reduce the number of outsourcing contracts that totaled nearly 480 billion Bolivars in 2007. The contract out agreements often go to domestic and foreign firms who are dedicated opponents to the Venezuela revolution. It is felt this leak of money to the opposition is a dangerous weakness.
In these two cases one can get a sense of how the economic-industrial revolution proceeds in much the same manner as the social-political revolution. Where there is an impediment to socialist progress that arises from the old oligarchic structure, then the state provides the means and protection necessary for the people themselves to organize and meet their needs.
The process is still young and the course is uncharted, and its significant achievements have been gained against a headwind of imperialist misinformation and distortion. Our world is struggling, bound in a cocoon of imperialist hegemony. Venezuela has chosen to emerge and advance the human project. They have chosen to help build a society to promote the development of human kind, a humanity conscious of itself and its relation to the whole of creation. Venezuela moves toward 21st century socialism. There is hope. It is connected to human social organization. The purpose of this modern social organization, beyond meeting the needs of people, is to promote the development of humanity beyond the limitations of fear, competition and lack of necessity.
During the grand era of capitalism, we developed the extraordinary tools necessary to take us as planetary beings to a higher level of social organization. It is a level described as 21st century socialism. It is structured according to cultural possibilities. Each interpretation will be characteristic of those who construct it. It is based in the promotion of life, and the peaceful, cultural development of humanity.
What greater thing can said of a society's purpose?
Venezuela constructs this new society along side the existing oligarchic state apparatus. They do it without violence and with pure creativity. There is no blueprint. The AVSN brigades take you inside the process to see the possibilities, the problems, the progress and the achievements of a new socialist structure. In particular the Venezuelan process involves the decentralization of state power, devolving it into the hands of the people. This is a magnificent extension of democracy, and at the same time a great challenge to the people who have undertaken the task to build a new society, based on different principles.
The AVSN made possible a fantastic visit among the builders of Venezuelan society. Hats off to the brave people of Venezuela and their visionary leader, Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.
!Viva la revolucion! !Venceremos!
Clayton Rafael Bagwell
June 5, 2010