Friday, 30 November 2007

PUBLIC FORUM: A new left in New Zealand

UNITY magazine presents... PUBLIC FORUM “A New Left Party: Build it Now!” The Labour government’s demonisation of the Urewera 17 is just another nail in the coffin of any claims it has to represent working people, Maori or anyone else up at th sharp end of globalisation and imperialism. Around the world, new left parties built by the millions and not the millionaires are rising up to take the fight to the “centre-left” parties who have spat upon the people who built them. Come and join the discussion, and hear about some of the things that have been happening in Aotearoa recently as activists and workers take the first step to our own new party of the Left.
Wednesday December 5th, 7:30 pm Unite Union Offices 12th floor, cnr Queen Street and Wellesley Street

Follow the Venezuelan referendum on live Internet radio

Venezuela En Vivo is a live web-streaming internet radio based in Caracas, Venezuela, and broadcast in English, French and Portuguese by a group of Venezuelan and international journalists, academics and activists living and working in Venezuela. The radio will report on the latest breaking news in and around the day of Venezuela´s December 2nd Constitutional Reform Referendum; cover the destabilization attempts against the democratic electoral process; put the events in to context with interviews and analytical content; and act as an alternative source of news to the mainstream media, which has proven time and again unable to report independently and unbiased on Venezuela.

The radio will begin periodic broadcast on Thursday, November 29th and will continue in to the following week. Special 24 hour coverage will take place on December 2nd. See upcoming program schedule for more details.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Venezuela: CIA "destabilisation plan" includes faked opinion polls

The campaign for the referendum on socialist reforms to Venezuela's constitution has heated up dramatically recently. A 19 year old worker was shot in the back and killed by anti-Chavez forces a few days ago. Eva Gollinger, author of The Chavez Code, exposes "Operation Pliers", which suggests that this escalation of tension and violence is no accident: An internal CIA memorandum has been obtained by Venezuelan counterintelligence from the US Embassy in Caracas that reveals a very sinister - almost fantastical, were it not true - plan to destabilize Venezuela during the coming days. The plan, titled "OPERATION PLIERS" was authored by CIA Officer Michael Middleton Steere and was addressed to CIA Director General Michael Hayden in Washington. Steere is stationed at the US Embassy in Caracas under the guise of a Regional Affairs Officer. The internal memorandum, dated November 20, 2007, references the "Advances of the Final Stage of Operation Pliers", and confirms that the operation is coordinated by the team of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) in Venezuela. The memo summarizes the different scenarios that the CIA has been working on in Venezuela for the upcoming referendum vote on December 2nd. The Electoral Scenario, as it's phrased, confirms that the voting tendencies will not change substantially before Sunday, December 2nd, and that the SI (YES) vote in favor of the constitutional reform has an advantage of about 10-13 points over the NO vote. The CIA estimates abstention around 60% and states in the memo that this voting tendency is irreversible before the elections. Officer Steere emphasizes the importance and success of the public relations and propaganda campaign that the CIA has been funding with more than $8 million during the past month - funds that the CIA confirms are transfered through the USAID contracted company, Development Alternatives, Inc., which set up operations in June 2002 to run the USAID Office for Transition Initiatives that funds and advises opposition NGOs and political parties in Venezuela. The CIA memo specifically refers to these propaganda initiatives as "psychological operations" (PSYOPS), that include contracting polling companies to create fraudulent polls that show the NO vote with an advantage over the SI vote, which is false. The CIA also confirms in the memo that it is working with international press agencies to distort the data and information about the referendum, and that it coordinates in Venezuela with a team of journalists and media organized and directed by the President of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell. CIA Officer Michael Steere recommends to General Michael Hayden two different strategies to work simultaneously: Impede the referendum and refuse to recognize the results once the SI vote wins. Though these strategies appear contradictory, Steere claims that they must be implemented together precisely to encourage activities that aim toward impeding the referendum and at the same time prepare the conditions for a rejection of the results. How is this to be done? In the memo, the CIA proposes the following tactics and actions: *Take the streets and protest with violent, disruptive actions across the nation *Generate a climate of ungovernability *Provoke a general uprising in a substantial part of the population *Engage in a "plan to implode" the voting centers on election day by encouraging opposition voters to "VOTE and REMAIN" in their centers to agitate others *Start to release data during the early hours of the afternoon on Sunday that favor the NO vote (in clear violation of election regulations) *Coordinate these activities with Ravell & Globovision and international press agencies *Coordinate with ex-militar officers and coupsters Pena Esclusa and Guyon Cellis - this will be done by the Military Attache for Defense and Army at the US Embassy in Caracas, Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO) To encourage rejection of the results, the CIA proposes: *Creating an acceptance in the public opinion that the NO vote will win for sure *Using polling companies contracted by the CIA *Criticize and discredit the National Elections Council *Generate a sensation of fraud *Use a team of experts from the universities that will talk about how the data from the Electoral Registry has been manipulated and will build distrust in the voting system The CIA memo also talks about: *Isolating Chavez in the international community *Trying to achieve unity amongst the opposition *Seek an aliance between those abstentionists and those who will vote "NO" *Sustain firmly the propaganda against Chavez *Execute military actions to support the opposition mobilizations and propagandistic occupations *Finalize the operative preparations on the US military bases in Curacao and Colombia to provide support to actions in Venezuela *Control a part of the country during the next 72-120 hours *Encourage a military rebellion inside the National Guard forces and other components Those involved in these actions as detailed in the CIA memo are: *The CIA Office in Venezuela - Office of Regional Affairs, and Officer Michael Steere *US Embassy in Venezuela, Ambassador Patrick Duddy *Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO) at the US Embassy in Caracas and Military Attache Richard Nazario ---Venezuelan Political Parties: *Comando Nacional de la Resistencia *Accion Democratica *Primero Justicia *Bandera Roja -----Media: *Alberto Federico Ravell & Globovision *Interamerican Press Society (IAPA) or SIP in Spanish *International Press Agencies ------Venezuelans: **Pena Esclusa *Guyon Cellis *Dean of the Simon Bolivar University, Rudolph Benjamin Podolski *Dean of the Andres Bello Catholic University, Ugalde *Students: Yon Goicochea, Juan Mejias, Ronel Gaglio, Gabriel Gallo, Ricardo Sanchez Operation Tenaza has the objective of encouraging an armed insurrection in Venezuela against the government of President Chavez that will justify an intervention of US forces, stationed on the military bases nearby in Curacao and Colombia. The Operation mentions two countries in code: as Blue and Green. These refer to Curacao and Colombia, where the US has operative, active and equipped bases that have been reinforced over the past year and a half in anticipation of a conflict with Venezuela. The document confirms that psychological operations are the CIA's best and most effective weapon to date against Venezuela, and it will continue its efforts to influence international public opinion regarding President Chavez and the situation in the country. Operation Tenaza is a very alarming plan that aims to destabilize Venezuela and overthrow (again) its legitimate and democratic (and very popularly support) president. The plan will fail, primarily because it has been discovered, but it must be denounced around the world as an unacceptable violation of Venezuela's sovereignty. The original document in English will be available in the public sphere soon for viewing and authenticating purposes. And it also contains more information than has been revealed here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

INVEVAL – leading the struggle for workers’ control

by Vaughan Gunson Across Latin America thousands of factories have been occupied and taken over by workers. The wonderful documentary film, The Take (2004), directed by Avi Lewi and written by Naomi Klein, follows the struggles of workers in occupied factories in Argentina at the time of the 2002 national elections. In the film an activist from the worker-run Bruckman garment factory tells us: “History is history – there have always been workers and bosses. But we are fighting for worker control. And I think it’s possible. I don’t know if I’m getting ahead of myself, but maybe we can run the country this way.” This is what workers in Venezuela are beginning to believe and fight for. Workers in 1,200 occupied factories and workplaces are part of a mammoth struggle to not just achieve workers’ control of individual factories, but to extend workers’ control to the whole of the country. These workers are at the vanguard of the struggle for socialism in the 21st century. Inveval – a leading light One of the leading lights of the workers’ movement in Venezuela is Inveval, a factory on the outskirts of Caracas that makes valves. Inveval has been nationalised by the Chávez government and is operating under workers’ control. The struggle of these workers, the obstacles they’ve faced and the conclusions they’ve reached is of great interest to all workers, not just in Venezuela, but around the world. In the middle of mass revolutionary movement, these workers are showing through their actions what’s possible. The history of the struggle at Inveval goes back to the bosses’ lockout which shutdown the Venezuelan economy in 2001-02. The capitalist owners of the National Valve Manufacturer (as Inveval was previously named) never re-opened the factory after the lockout was defeated. They refused to pay the 330 workers their outstanding salaries and other payments they were entitled to. A group of 65 workers began a fight to get their money. They demanded justice from the labour courts and the labour ministry. This small group of Inveval workers drew strength from the broader Chávista movement. Francisco Pinero, an Inveval worker and current treasurer, says: “We spent two years picketing at the gates before we decided to take it over. Through this process we developed political maturity very fast, not just through our own personal struggle, but the broader political struggles of the constituent assembly and the recall referendum.” Never-the-less, the struggle took its toll and by December 2004 only one worker camped outside the factory. At this point the boss tried to sneak into the factory at night to take tools and half-finished valves. Pablo Cormenzana, a spokesperson for Inveval, tells how the workers then decided to camp in bigger numbers outside the factory to stop the boss from ransacking the factory. We were thinking: “this guy left us out in the streets and now he’s leaving with the few things that could be sold to pay us back what he owed us.” “At the very same time,” says Cormenzana, “two very important situations developed in Venezuela. In January 2005 during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, President Chávez launched his proposal for socialism. This was very important moment for the worker controlled factories. “The other important event for Inveval was the nationalisation of the paper mill Invepal. The paper mill Venepal was in a similar situation as Inveval. The owner in this case claimed bankruptcy with the idea of breaking up the company and selling off shares to the transnational cardboard producer, Murphy. The owner of Venepal went bankrupt and left the workers out to dry. The Venezuelan government told the workers at Venepal that if they led a serious struggle and rallied on a large scale, President Chávez may consider nationalising the company. The workers accepted the proposal and began to rally. They protested, pushing for nationalisation of Venepal. The president accepted the proposal and decreed the nationalisation of Venepal. The workers later formed Invepal. “The nationalisation of Invepal motivated the workers of Inveval and they launched a new campaign to get their jobs back,” says Cormenzana. A factory run democratically by workers Inveval was nationalised by presidential decree in April 2005 and re-opened under workers’ control. “We’re talking about a huge factory that runs with computers and giant machinery. And yet, the workers were able to make it work,” says Cormenzana, “They’re proving the theory that workers can run industry without bosses. Not only are the workers at Inveval successfully running a company without bosses or an owner, they’re also doing it without technocrats or bureaucracy from the government. The government has had little participation in the functioning of the company.” Pinero explains how the struggle to get their jobs back by taking over the factory led to formation of workers’ assemblies: “We were members of the union [Sintrametal, formerly aligned to the old corrupt CTV]. When we wanted to take over the factory we asked the union for legal help, but they didn’t help us. Because the union didn’t help us we began to form assemblies.” These were maintained after Inveval was nationalised. Initially Inveval was to be run under a co-management model, with 51% ownership being in the hands of the state, and the other 49% with the workers. The management of the company was to be a Directors Board composed of three elected representatives of the workers’ assembly and two functionaries appointed by the state. The two state appointees never turned up and Inveval workers quickly decided that the Directors Board was not a democratic or socialist way of running the company. The board was replaced by a Factory Council made up of 32 representatives elected by the workers’ assembly, which is the highest authority. The Factory Council is divided into commissions responsible for specific tasks like finances, administration, design of valves, quality control, discipline, sales, etc. “Factories under worker control function democratically, unlike with a boss,” says Pinero, “The factory is run by worker delegates. “If the delegates and representatives do not fulfill their responsibilities according to what the assembly says, the assembly can revoke the delegate from his or her position. All of the workers make the same salaries - it doesn’t matter if they are truck drivers, line workers or the president of the company. “We want the state to own 100%, but for the factory to be under workers control, for workers to control all production and administration. This is how we see the new productive model; we don’t want to create new capitalists here,” stresses Pinero. There has been a debate amongst workers, unionists and other grassroots activists about the relationship between Factory Councils and the trade unions. On this matter Jorge Paredes, Inveval’s worker president, is clear: “The Factory Councils cannot replace the trade unions. They must complement each other. The Factory Councils are a weapon of the workers to manage the companies and therefore to run the economy. The trade unions are a tool to defend our rights as workers. Some trade union comrades have a confused vision of this matter and reject the Workers Councils. This is a serious mistake. Revolutionary trade unions must promote the setting up of Factory Councils in order to develop workers’ control.” FRETECO – organising to extend workers’ control Workers at Inveval have been conscious of the need to share their knowledge and experiences with the rest of the movement in Venezuela. This is happening in a number of ways. They’re raising with workers in other occupied factories that representatives should attend each others meetings. Inveval workers have been invited by the Ministry of Light Economy and Trade to take a leading role in the socialist education of other public industrial companies. And it was Inveval workers who were the force behind the establishment of the Revolutionary Front of Workers in Factories Occupied and under Co-management (FRETECO), formed in 2006. The Front’s goal is to push for the extension of workers’ power from its base in factories and workplaces to all levels of Venezuelan society. Article 1 of FRETECO’s constitution states: “The Co-managed and Occupied Factories Worker’s Front declares its principal objective the extension of the expropriation and nationalisation of Venezuelan industry and its placement under control of its own workers. Its goal is to develop the process that started in 2005 with the expropriation of Venepal by the president of the Republic and to extend it to the rest of Venezuelan industry so it leads to the practice of socialism in the nation of Bolívar.” As the path ahead for the Venezuelan revolution is debated by workers and other grassroots people, FRETECO’s ideas about workers’ control are gaining a hearing. A FRETECO organised gathering on 30 June brought together workers from a number of factories and workplaces, including from Intevep (the technology division of state-owned oil company PDVSA) and the Socialist Front of Workers of Caracas Electricity (EdC), recently nationalised by Chavez. Representatives of the government and other revolutionary political organisations also attended. The focus of the meeting was to discuss Chávez’s decision to establish hundreds of new “social production enterprises” or “socialist companies” to produce a range of items, including food, ships, construction materials, cellular telephones, clothing, electrical appliances, wheelchairs and bicycles. Also discussed was Chávez’s creation of a Central Planning Commission by presidential decree. The stated purposes of the commission are to promote the transition to centralised planning of the economy; promote the establishment of a socialist state; preserve national sovereignty; and promote international alliances. All government ministries and state owned companies will be subject to the decisions made by the Central Planning Commission. These two new initiatives have been a hot topic of debate in Venezuela. On the right of the movement there are people who argue that it’s enough to nationalise industry under the control of the state. While on the left, groups like FRETECO are arguing that “socialist companies” must be controlled democratically by workers, or they’re not socialist. A focus of the debate has been whether industries currently run by the state should instead be directly under workers’ democratic control. Federico Fuentes, in an interview in Green Left Weekly (1 August 2007), says: “This is a very intense discussion, because there is no doubt there are different wings within the government... There are those who are totally opposed to any real form of worker participation in state industry.” According to Fuentes this is the position that Chávez, for now at least, has backed. However, he believes the debate is far from over: “this is a discussion that will unfold and many are confident that it will be possible to clarify what workers’ participation means and why it is so important in the state industries.” FRETECO, a grassroots workers’ organisation reflecting the knowledge and experiences of workers who’ve achieved workers’ control in individual factories, are well placed to intervene and give leadership to the rest of the movement. In a sea of capitalism One of the experiences workers at Inveval are generalising from and bringing to the attention of other workers and socialist activists, is that individual factories under workers’ control cannot survive in a sea of capitalism. Inveval has trouble getting raw materials, necessary tools and machinery, and finding buyers for the valves they make. But they also face legal problems from the maintenance of bourgeois laws and outright opposition from corrupt bureaucrats within the old structures of the Venezuelan state. These state functionaries want worker controlled factories to accept the rules of the market and to compete against other factories, whether capitalist owned or run by workers. Carlos Ramírez from the Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) spoke to the FRETECO gathering. He argued that: “An isolated company working under workers’ control will face many difficulties to survive. Even if it is expropriated by the state but remains isolated it will be subjected to the pressure of the state bureaucracy, which – as president Chávez has said – is one of the legacies of capitalism. Socialist companies can only survive if the take over, occupation and expropriation of factories spreads to the whole economy.” Inveval workers have had trouble with the managers of PDVSA, the state owned oil company. PDVSA had negotiated a contract with Inveval to produce valves, which they did. PDVSA managers then reneged on the deal and refused to pick up the valves or pay for them. Even after a direct intervention by Chávez the valves remained on the factory floor. PDVSA has since placed orders with Inveval for valve sizes that they know the factory can’t produce, and then accused the Inveval workers of failing to fill orders, This economic sabotage by state capitalists within PDVSA is what the revolution is up against. Socialism = workers running the country Where you stand on workers’ control is fast becoming the issue which defines whether you are for or against the revolution. Workers at the FRETECO gathering are convinced that workers’ control has to be spread to every factory and workplace in Venezuela. Nelson Rodriguez, an Inveval worker, says the Workers Councils “must link up with the Peasant Councils, the Communal Councils, in order to become the basis of the new revolutionary state we want to build. Only this can put an end to the sabotage of the capitalists, bureaucratism and corruption.” Inveval workers have been meeting this year with the Communal Councils of Los Teques, a city 30km from Caracas. Los Teques currently has a mayor who claims to support Chávez, but who continues to block and disregard the demands of grassroots people. The mayor and his council have failed to maintain basic services like rubbish collection. A private company was given the contract by the town council to collect rubbish, but this year through combined mismanagement and opposition to the revolution, rubbish has been left to pile up on the streets. In response to this major public issue, Inveval workers talked to members of the Communal Councils about the need for a new local assembly of representatives of the Factory Councils and Communal Councils, to begin to take over the functions of the corrupt town council. At the same time they talked to workers from the rubbish collection company about workers’ control. They put forward the argument that rubbish collection needs to be organised and run by workers and the community. Through FRETECO Inveval workers are calling on comrades in other worker occupied or expropriated factories to make the same links with the Communal Councils and begin to coordinate worker and community action to tackle the problems posed by corruption and economic sabotage. From these practical initiatives can emerge the democratic structures of a socialist state. The next stage of the revolution The confidence of Inveval workers, and their clarity in regard to what needs to be done, has seen them call for workers, elected and recallable, to participate in the new Commission of Planning announced by Chávez. “In this way,” Antonio Betancourt argues, “the revolutionary government and the workers could manage, lead and really plan the economy.“ As has often been the case, initiatives of Chávez spark new debate about the direction of the revolution and spur people to action, in the process deepening the consciousness of the movement. The government continues to open up space for workers to discuss themselves the path to socialism. Chávez & Co are not going to have all the answers, so workers’ revolutionary organisations like FRETECO, which are bringing together the best revolutionary fighters, are vital to the health of the revolution. The ideas and experiences of Venezuela’s revolutionary workers are yet to connect with the mass of the working class and other grassroots people. The real flourishing of their ideas is set to occur when the 5-million-strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) takes the field of the revolution. Inveval workers know that they have to bring their knowledge to the wider workers’ movement and influence the debate as to how socialism of the 21st century will be achieved. “We can do this through the PSUV,” says Pinero. This is an exciting prospect as the Venezuela revolution enters its next stage. The majority of the quotes in this article have been drawn from: - ‘Interview with FRETECO representative’, by Marie Trigona,, 11 October 2006. - ‘Historic FRETECO meeting – workers of occupied factories present ideas on socialist companies, workers’ councils, and the building of socialism’, by FRETECO,, 6 July 2007. - ‘Venezuela’s Co-Managed Inveval: Surviving in a Sea of Capitalism’, by Kiraz Janicke, 27 July 2007.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

From the new UNITY: Building It Now

The following is the editorial article from the most recent issue of UNITY magazine - "Socialism for the 21st century". Follow the link for subscription information.

Editional information
Building it now

If there was ever a time in history when socialists and revolutionaries could be forgiven for sitting back and letting others make the running, it is certainly long past. The failed and failing imperialist adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are dragging the current world system down with them.

On a political and military level, it looks increasingly like the people of Iran will be made to pay with their lives for the hurt prestige of Bush and his new best buddy Brown. On an economic level, the chickens are coming home to roost for the Western economies, as the credit bubble which has kept consumption high and wages low deflates.

Ordinary people throughout the world – even in the rich capitalist countries – increasingly know something is going wrong. Neo-liberal capitalism is increasingly making it difficult to put food on the table – and the civil liberties which are the "free West"'s other main selling point are also increasingly curtailed by the endless War on Terror. In many areas,about the only thing which is holding back an explosion at the grassroots is fear – fear that the only alternative to the modern world of police torture and more work for less money is something even worse. Which is, of course, the main ideological effect that the War on Terror is meant to perpetuate.

The job of socialists in the current world climate is to tip the balance between fear and anger in the consciousness of the masses. We need to get across the idea that there is not only an alternative, but a credible means of fighting for it. We need to argue the case for a mass party of workers and the other oppressed and exploited communities, fighting for a socialist transformation of society.

This is why Socialist Worker in New Zealand points to the increasingly important example of the ongoing Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. For the first time in living memory, we are able to point to a social process of ordinary people taking control of their own lives and telling the corporates where to get off, and say: "That's what we're talking about." Seattle put anti-capitalism back on the agenda. But Caracas has put socialism back on the agenda – most famously, in the statement of President Hugo Chávez Frias of Venezuela that his government is moving towards "socialism of the 21st century".

This issue of UNITY is devoted to exploring exactly what that idea means. As Marxists, we see socialism as a post-capitalist economy, run by bottom-up democracy, where production is carried out for need and for use rather than for profit. As Venezuela is the only nation in the world where a process informed by this idea is being carried out on a national level, much of this issue is devoted to examining critically where the Bolivarian process is going, the opportunities and pitfalls that it evokes.

As most of our readers know by now, Socialist Worker – NZ has been carrying on this discussion within the worldwide network of revolutionary groups to which we belong, the International Socialist Tendency. To put it mildly, our statements have been controversial. The first half of this issue is devoted to reprinting some of the major contributions on this issue. Two discussion papers from the Socialist Worker Central Committee are reproduced, along with a rebuttal from Alex Callinicos, representing our British sister group, the Socialist Workers Party. This ongoing discussion – including IST parties and others – is archived on full at our UNITYblog. We encourage you to check out the whole thing at

The remainder of this issue is grouped around various themes which we consider vital to imagining a post-capitalist society. Such a society will be thoroughly democratic, with all power of effective decision-making devolved to the lowest level. We include two articles on the current struggle to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution to make "popular power" even more of a reality. But the question of building a bottom-up structure of administration will be an empty shell without building a bottom-up structure of political debate and mobilisation. The fate of "worker self-management" in Yugoslavia shows that workers councils without a real workers' party are like a gun without any ammunition.

The formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela both mirrors and determines the future shape of the constitution of the Socialist Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and these articles deal with the two questions together. But along with the new politics must come a new economics – democracy in the workplace, and production for use rather than profit. Two opposite threats to this new economy arise in revolutionary Venezuela – from bureaucratic elements trying to impose a state-capitalist system to squash workers' democracy, and from elements within the working class themselves who want factory democracy as a means to compete and make profit in a market economy. Vaughan Gunson discusses INVEVAL, the worker-controlled valve manufacturer, for a glimpse of what workers' power for the 21st century might look like, while Stuart Munckton interviews Fred Fuentes about the problems facing organised labour's struggle to come into its own power in revolutionary Venezuela.

21st century socialism will need a new form of making production and consumption decisions which relies on neither bureaucratic commandism or the anarchy of a money-based marketplace. We reproduce a review of the book Parecon by Michael Albert, an American anarchist writer who has written an intriguing and plausible description of what a post-capitalist economy might look like. Most intriguingly, the centrepiece of his model – Producers' and Consumer Councils negotiating production decisions – increasingly resembles Venezuela's networks of factory councils and communal councils. Albert has visited Venezuela and is enthusiastic about what he's seen.

What will popular culture and the media look like in a free, post-capitalist civilisation? Chávez's decision not to renew the licence of the coup-plotting RCTV network drew nervous reactions from Western liberals intent on defending "freedom of speech". But Rob Sewell ably demonstrates why corporate media control is the precise opposite of freedom of speech – and draws from the Russian revolutionary tradition to suggest what an alternative media democracy might look like. Your UNITY editor also contributes her own thoughts as to the importance of mass media and the people who produce it to capitalism of today and the movement to overcome it.

So much more could have been written about in this issue but had to be cut for reasons of space. We regret not being able to provide an indepth look at the current credit crisis, or discuss the vital role of indigenous people at the heart of the Bolivarian project, or further explain what we see as the situation of “dual power” in Venezuela. We do offer Joe Carolan’s response to accusations that Marxists “fetishise” Muslim peoples and their struggles, and Anna Potts' thoughtful discussion of the place of women's struggle in a 21st century revolutionary movement.

In our final major article of this issue, your UNITY editor reviews Build It Now, a short but dynamite book by Michael Lebowitz, an academic who has been at the heart of the Bolivarian revolutionary process. In a model of what Marxist scholarship should look like, he cogently explains Marxist economics, discusses where the Bolivarian movement came from and how it has changed over time, and gives valuable hints and clues to how workers' power and popular democracy can mesh to create a new world.

The role of the Bolivarian revolution in ideologically sorting out the various strands of opinion in the anti-capitalist movement is perhaps the surest sign of its vital importance for today. The British autonomist John Holloway wrote a book entitled Changing the world without taking power – a seductive concept to generations who had been let down by various figures who had seized state power only to betray. Recently, Gregory Wilpert – one of the founders of the website – has released a book entitled Changing Venezuela by taking power. It can be argued that Holloway's central thesis – a variation on the old adage that "power corrupts" - has proved inadequate to the test of practice.

One vital lesson of Venezuela is that there are opportunities as well as dangers for revolutionaries in moving into the sphere of state power. Those of us who hold to the Marxist view of the state – that it is an apparatus devoted to the preservation of the power of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system – have rightly concentrated on the dangers when we argue about reformism. But in the current historical era, where capitalism and imperialism are undergoing crises but there is no credible worldwide alternative, Marxism is faced with the question of either moving into the mainstream – or perhaps losing the last, best chance to save our civilisations and our planet.

By the time the next UNITY comes out, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela will have begun to take shape. This new party, as well the various new broad-left formations in which socialists have played a central role – Respect, the various Socialist Alliances, the German Left party and our own RAM – will be the central theme of the next issue of UNITY.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

E Tu! Free concert to oppose the Terrorism Suppression Act, Sat 1st December, Frank Kitts Park, Wellington

FREE CONCERT, Sat 1st December, Frank Kitts Park Wellington You are invited to E tu! A free day concert on Sat 1st December (Sun 2nd if rain) from Noon till 7pm. Come and check out the amazing line up of bands, knowledgeble and insightful speakers, plus enjoy kids activities, food and information stalls and our Wellington waterfront. E tu! will provide you with the space, time, resources, and relaxed atmosphere to educated yourself, whanau and wider community about the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, its background, global context and implications. Who and why? A group of concerned Wellingtonians are running E tu!, a Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA) awareness raising gig on Saturday 1st Dec (if wet Sunday 2nd).E tu! will engage and educate the public on this subject, as well as the myriad of issues raised which directly effect our civil rights. We will be calling for the TSA to be repealed. E tu! will raise awareness on the day by way of information stalls and key speakers. There will be a dedicated forum area with guest speakers. By having well known people support the issue, the public will see that this is an issue worth further understanding and investigation. We are aiming to meet everyone's needs, old and young alike. It will be a fun day for the whole family, with kids’ games, craft and food stalls,and a wide variety of music. This is a chance for Wellingtonians to come forward and become better informed, and to be counted in their disapproval of the TSA, how it affects our society, and how it may be used in the future. This event will send a clear message to the Government and police that: •We do not want join the USA/Australian/British ‘war on terror’ •We will be saying that there is no need for a Terrorism Act in New Zealand because we already have appropriate laws. There is no need for a separate set of laws to cover crimes committed with religious or political motives. This Act criminalises protestors and their movements. •It is threatening our democratic right to question the government’s policies and legislations. •This event will say that the ‘Uruwera 17’ should not have been arrested. •E tu! will demand both Government and police accountability and transparency in their operations. •We will also be sending the message that we will not stand for institutionalised racism as seen in the ‘terror raids’. We must stand up against this legislation and any plans to toughen it up. If we do not, we will not be able to safely stand up to our government in the future for fear of being labelled a terrorist. Today, 1981 Springbok tour protestors would be charged with 'terrorism' for obstructing infrastructure, as defined by the Act. The TSA is an attack on our right to free speech. It is crucial that New Zealanders from all walks of life engage now. We also need to be equipped with information that allows us to critically analyse mainstream media, which has frequently been incorrect and shown bias. More info at:

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The PSUV: a reply to Mike Gonzales

The Struggle for a United Socialist Party of Venezuela

Local battalions of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) have been meeting every weekend since August, aiming to organise the 5.7 million aspiring members who enrolled between April and June to join the party-in-formation. Spokespeople and heads of commissions elected by the more than 14,000 battalions have gone on to form socialist circumscriptions, grouping 10 battalions in a given local area, to elect delegates to the party’s founding congress.
The process of forming the party comes in the context of the deepening of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, through a massive push to organise the population by way of communal councils and proposed reforms to the constitution to create a new institutional framework to drive forward this anti-capitalist process. Within this process, PSUV is envisaged as an essential political instrument to politically organise the popular classes to most effectively fight for their class interests. The party is intended to bring together the worker and farmer base of the revolution with their leadership. Until now, the leadership of the revolutionary process has almost entirely been embodied in the figure of socialist President Hugo Chavez. On November 6, at a the mass meeting of the Zamora Command, formed to direct the campaign for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming December 2 referendum on constitutional reform, Chavez explained that “fundamental motor” of the campaign will be the PSUV’s battalions. He stated that the campaign would require continuous street mobilisations in order to win the biggest vote possible to defeat the right-wing opponents of the reforms. The opposition has put forward three different strategies to defeat the reforms: a plan of destabilisation, building a “No” vote, and organised abstention. The left’s response Many progressive and socialist activists around the world have been excited by the prospects of a new mass revolutionary party in Venezuela, which will aid collective discussion on the direction of the revolution. However, some on the international left have quickly dismissed the PSUV. One such example is Mike Gonzalez, a leader of the British Socialist Workers Party and its International Socialist Tendency, and the SWP’s key theoretician on Latin American politics. In Australia, groups such as the International Socialist Organisation (which is part of the IST), and Socialist Alternative and Solidarity (which are not, but share the same political tradition) take many of their cues from the SWP. After spending some time in Venezuela recently, Gonzalez returned to Britain to report in the October Socialist Review that the PSUV was merely “an instrument of presidential power and one in which debate will be virtually impossible”. Hostile to the revolutionary leadership around Chavez, Gonzalez has decided that the process in Venezuela is simply a question of “top down” organising, counter-posed to a “real” revolution, which is “bottom up”. Gonzalez argues that the PSUV “has become more or less analogous with the state, so that the expression of doubt can be interpreted as hostility to, or at best scepticism about, the revolution”. He raises the spectre of Stalinism like in the Soviet Union, and of the big bogeyman for the IST — Cuba (which the IST also considers Stalinist). “There are a lot of Cubans embedded in different parts of the government. Their sympathies probably lie with that group of bureaucrats forging this new instrument”, writes Gonzalez. “For me, and for most of the people I spoke to”, he adds, “it is clear that [the PSUV] was an initiative from the state and the bureaucracy, not so much of Chavez as of those around Chavez”. Even before the PSUV’s founding congress, Gonzalez apparently sees no hope for the project to succeed in creating a mass revolutionary socialist party. However, the Venezuelan reality is different to how Gonzalez paints it. Formation of PSUV During the presidential election campaign in late 2006, Chavez convened a meeting of the key Chavista parties and individuals to explain that after the election he would call for the formation of a new united party. The parties that supported Chavez election, including both revolutionary and pro-capitalist elements, have been divided. Chavez’s ostensible party, the Movement for a Fifth Republic (MVR), was largely a bureaucratically run electoral vehicle rather than an activist-driven revolutionary party. Some Chavistas argued that the current parties supporting the Bolivarian revolution should have automatic quotas for the founding congress of a united party. However, Chavez was adamant that all delegates, including himself, would have to be elected from the grassroots. On December 15, after his overwhelming victory in the presidential elections on a socialist platform, Chavez formally called for the formation of the PSUV. He explained the past practice of top-down decisions and deals on Chavista candidates for elected positions should be changed and “This should all be done from below, from the base. The people should take these decisions, as has been written in our constitution for seven years, except we haven’t done it. Now is the time to start.” Chavez added, “You will not see me with the same old faces, the same party leaderships — no, that would be a deception”. Such a discourse seems unlikely to have pleased the bureaucratic layers within the government, but rather acted as an impetus for the mass of Venezuelan revolutionaries, who applauded this initiative. Yet Gonzalez claims that “initially much of the left argued that the PSUV was an exercise in manipulation and that they should continue to build a current outside”. He argues that only after it became clear that “many working class people were attempting to join [the PSUV], this attitude changed … Eventually most of those on the left decided to enter the PSUV to try to build an independent current within it.” However this is untrue. For instance, within the trade union movement, all of the main currents decided months before enrolment began to join the new party. Even the overwhelming majority of the leadership and rank and file of the C-CURA union tendency, which Gonzalez writes of in glowing terms, voted in March to encourage its members to join PSUV — despite one of its key leaders, Orlando Chirinos, arguing against it. In the campesino sector, the radical wing of the movement organised in the National Campesino Front Ezequiel Zamora had, by the end of January, agreed to be part of the PSUV. The overwhelming bulk of the local political and social organisations also threw themselves into the formation of the PSUV. An interesting case is that of the Party of Revolution and Socialism, which, due to its Trotskyist leanings, was pointed to by many like-minded socialist groups internationally as the “real” revolutionary force in Venezuela (ironically this meant it was probably better known outside of Venezuela than inside). After a section of the PSR’s leadership, headed by Chirinos, voted to stay outside the PSUV, the overwhelming bulk of its worker membership left to join the PSUV. Rather than the left delaying joining, most of these sectors immediately realised there was a need to go into the PSUV to fight to ensure that what would emerge from the process of party formation is a real political instrument of the working people. The number of people who registered to take part in the party was a massive display of the support for such an initiative and the strongly felt desire amongst the Chavista ranks for unity and political organisation. It is undeniable that a sizeable chunk of the more bureaucratic sectors of Chavismo have thrown their weight into the PSUV in order to best try to control it from above. However, this is hardly surprising. They know that their interests are threatened by a formation that eliminates the distribution of quotas for position and selection of candidates from above and replaces it with real grassroots democracy and revolutionary organisation: a real party, not just another electoral vehicle. It is important to note that according to a number of revolutionaries, in a clear majority of the battalions across the country grassroots activists have imposed their will on the leftover bureaucratic MVR apparatchiks, winning the elections for spokespeople and heads of commissions. Because of the number of delegates won by the left-wing of Chavismo, activists feel confident the left will be strongly felt at the founding congress. Moreover, the congress will provide an important opportunity for many revolutionary activists to come together for the first time at this level. Structure and program Gonzalez criticises the fact that “neither the structure nor the direction of the party have yet been defined. Instead small national commissions nominated by Chavez have been given the task of defining its character and form”, though he is forced to acknowledge that they will not decide “its programme or aims”. Gonzalez is particularly opposed to the fact that the local organising units are based on geography, meaning “there are no workplace units and no student units. And given where the barrios are located in the cities, a geographical unit could quite easily embrace a poor district and a middle class area.” Gonzalez proclaims that the problem is that PSUV “was declared from above rather than built from below”. However Gonzalez’s arguments are designed to justify his predetermined opposition to the PSUV, not engage with the real process of revolutionary struggle within Venezuela. Of course someone had to set some kind of guidelines for the initial structure — how else would Gonzalez propose the process proceeds? Have the local units just emerge “spontaneously”? Such a conception would be a free kick for the bureaucrats, who would be the best placed to create fake “battalions” and control the election of delegates. The reality that local grassroots activists have in many cases imposed their decisions on the bureaucracy demonstrates that the initial structure, rather than hindering, has facilitated the beginnings of a new grassroots leadership. While it is true that a national commission has set out this initial framework, nowhere is it excluded that the founding congress can vote to change this. Similarly it will be those elected “from below” who will discuss and debate, in permanent contact with their local battalions, every aspect of the new party: structure, program and principles. Moreover, student and workplace units are not excluded. In fact a number have been set up at the aluminium factory ALCASA (which Gonzalez says he visited, yet managed to miss this fact), telecommunications company CANTV, manufacturing company INVEVAL and others. While battalions have been formed in middle-class areas, Gonzalez does not explain where the problem with this lies — merely expecting the reader to just accept that this is criminal. Yet surely a new party would aim to organise the revolutionary sectors of this class. There is no evidence produced by Gonzalez to show that somehow having PSUV battalions in middle-class areas will automatically prevent the party from developing a revolutionary socialist program. The nature of PSUV will not be determined simply by its social composition (and if it was, given the overwhelming working-class membership, it would already be a mass workers’ party) but by its political program — something that must be debated out and not simply imposed on the ranks. Most importantly, Gonzalez misses the fact that the PSUV’s initial structures did not come from nowhere, nor were they the result of a conspiracy by a clique of bureaucrats. The structures build on the successful mass organisation of the people in the lead-up to the 2004 recall referendum (the Units of Electoral Battle) and the 2006 presidential elections. These structures were true expressions of mass participation and political organisation, rooted directly in the communities and drawing in hundreds of thousands of grassroots leaders, outside of the structures of the official parties, in successful electoral campaigns. Today it is similar structures that are at the centre of perhaps the most important battle in the Venezuelan process — the referendum on constitution reform. Once again it is the real leaders in the community, who through the authority they have won among the grassroots, who will lead this battle. Furthermore, the discussion around the reforms — which is essentially a programmatic discussion on a mass scale — adds important fuel to the ideological debate taking place within PSUV and Venezuelan society. Problems and challenges This is not to say that the first few months of the formation of PSUV have been perfect. There are many problems and dangers (which Green Left Weekly has covered in the past), but none of them have anything to do with those listed by Gonzalez. There are no simple formulas for revolution or building revolutionary parties, only the reality in which we live and the lessons we can draw from the past. Any process involving 5.7 million people will include steps forwards and steps backward, and will be a process of serious struggle. However it will not be advanced by the simplistic sloganeering and denial of reality exhibited by Gonzalez. He seems determined to write off the PSUV before the party even holds its founding congress, implying that it is preordained that the party cannot be a vehicle to lead the struggle for socialism. Such a view has also been put forward by another SWP leader, Chris Harman, in International Socialism #114. Harman argues that the PSUV “cannot provide an answer to the chaos [in Venezuela] because it will reflect in itself all the contradictory attitudes within the Chavista ranks”. Not a hint that the struggle for the formation of the PSUV is not just an organisational question but a political one, which will include a struggle for a socialist program and grassroots structures. Such logic is removed from the reality of mass revolutionary politics and divorced from the need to grapple with a revolutionary process that involves not just thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, but millions. The Venezuelan revolution and the formation of the PSUV open up the possibility of not only serious blows being dealt to capitalism at a global level, but also the possibility of discussing on a mass scale, far beyond the existing revolutionary left, questions of revolution and political organisation. Today, the revolutionary leadership in Venezuela, headed by Chavez, working together with the historic leadership of Cuba, is not just beginning to turn the tide of history but has opened up an important discussion among the left. This will make clear those who are willing to engage with new revolutionary forces leading the fight against capitalism, and those who close their eyes and continue to follow dead-end schemas that fly in the face of reality. [Federico Fuentes is a part of Green Left Weekly’s Caracas bureau and a member of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective, part of the Socialist Alliance.]
From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #732 21 November 2007.

Monday, 19 November 2007

New film on Venezuela premieres in Auckland

NOW THE PEOPLE HAVE AWOKEN: Exploring Venezuela's Revolution
New NZ Documentary 12 December, 8.15 pm Academy Cinemas, AUK Film followed by discussion with local directors To reserve your ticket contact or call 0210339220 $10 unwaged; $14 waged Except for beauty queens and oil, Venezuela has never been on the international stage. Now Venezuela is at the center of international controversy: for some it has been stolen by a populist dictator, while for others Venezuela represents the centre of a continent-wide democratic revolution. There is much at stake. Venezuela sits atop the biggest oil reserves in the world, which are being used to foment a new order. President Hugo Chavez, who survived a military coup in 2002, has supported a number of controversial social programs which have pushed Venezuela onto the United States government, and media, enemy radar. What makes Venezuela tick? Who is behind the movement and what does it seek? Filmed through the 2006 presidential elections, this is a film about the people of the new Venezuela.

Organising to build a global broad left movement

Statement by the central committee of Socialist Worker-New Zealand on the occasion of the two separate Respect conferences taking place in London on 17 November 2007. The political crisis in Respect that has led to a split is a setback for the movement in Britain. Many activists involved with Respect must be incredibly frustrated and disappointed that this happened at this time and in this manner. Some of that frustration and disappointment is shared by Socialist Worker-New Zealand. As an organisation we have watched closely the development of Respect, as an example of a broad left political formation. That this split has occurred, however, should not detract from the urgent necessity of building broad left alternatives. It’s not inevitable that a coalition that brings together people from a range of political traditions and experiences should fracture in this way. And there’s hope that out of the split, and the important political lessons it contains, a viable broad left project which maintains the original vision of Respect can emerge. For us in New Zealand, building a mass-based broad left alternative is central to the political strategy of our organisation. It is a strategy that we believe has global reach. Why broad left formations are necessary To many activists, workers and other grassroots people it’s apparent that the world’s becoming more dangerous, unequal, and at risk of environmental catastrophe. Corporate imperialism is driving the US ruling class to pursue a global war, currently centred on the Middle East. The same forces of corporate domination and control are marching the world headlong towards irreversible climate change. While the wealth gap between the world’s elite and the vast majority of humanity continues to grow. Grassroots people in every country are deeply concerned and angry at the twisted world that’s been created by three decades of neo-liberalism. In recent years – though globally uneven – there have been signs that anger is being combined with a growing willingness to fight back. Internationally, a layer of younger anti-capitalist activists has emerged. In some countries there’s increased militancy by unionised workers. And in Latin America, led by the revolutionary process in Venezuela, millions of people are now in revolt against corporate rule. So while the world faces the most urgent problems which threaten the lives of billions of people, there are also opportunities for building a political challenge to the corporate imperialists and the political parties that represent them. This is being recognised by activists in many countries, who are forming broad left networks, coalitions and parties. There’s a growing realisation that mass-based political alternatives to formerly social democratic parties that have embraced neo-liberalism have got to be built. For Socialist Worker-New Zealand such broad left formations are necessary for raising the confidence of working class people, because they begin to establish the prospect of an alternative society with different norms of collective behaviour and social responsibility. A programme of general and specific demands Central to many broad left initiatives is a common strategy: which is, the vital importance of presenting a programme of general and specific demands out to the wider movement. Such demands include free healthcare, free education, the nationalisation of wealth for the people, measures to protect the environment, rights for workers, rights for indigenous people, and so on. These demands can mobilise people in the struggle, uniting them into a potentially powerful force for social change. This is an essential strategy for advancing the movement after years of neo-liberal attacks and often severe defeats for workers and other grassroots people. Creating a viable electoral platform to present progressive demands out to masses of people is a necessity. Achieving legitimacy and authority in the eyes of grassroots people requires committed efforts to mount serious electoral campaigns. This is one part of building organic links with people who have been politically marginalised for so long. This electoral work must, of course, go hand-in-hand with grassroots campaigning in communities and workplaces. Mass outreach publications are needed which aim to bring broad layers of people into common activity. Such publications are important for maintaining an outwards focus and encouraging participants in broad left formations, both individuals and groups, to regard this work as a political priority. New Zealand’s Workers Charter Our organisation has worked with other radical leftists in New Zealand to establish the Workers Charter, a document which includes a ten-point list of human rights (see Appendix). At the beginning of 2006 the Workers Charter paper was set-up to promote the charter and to connect with workers and other grassroots people beginning to radicalise. The paper is distributed at protests and through union networks. The aim has been to bring socialist, leftists and other activists closer together, where debates can take place in the context of an orientation to the wider movement. The ten-point Workers Charter is also part of the manifesto of the Residents Action Movement (RAM). RAM was formed in 2003 by leading members of Socialist Worker-New Zealand in coalition with other grassroots activists on the back of a rates revolt in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. In the 2007 local body elections RAM stood candidates across Greater Auckland (population: 1.4 million) and received over 100,000 votes campaigning on a clear anti-corporate, pro-people, pro-environment platform. Key policies were free and frequent public transport and shifting the rates burden off residents and onto big corporations. We see RAM and the Workers Charter as part of the struggle to build a serious challenge to the increasingly neo-liberal and reactionary New Zealand Labour Party. Breaking the hold that social liberal parties still maintain over workers and the wider movement will remove a crucial barrier to advancing the confidence of grassroots people. This is going to be a difficult struggle, but one which Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes must be embarked on with total commitment. Free debate and open democracy Broad left formations are by their very nature going to bring people with a range of views and experiences together. This is to be celebrated. Different ideas, shades of socialist and left politics, will generate much needed political creativity as broad left formations strive to connect with working class people. Any broad left network, coalition or party that is to have a long term future must foster a spirit of trust and equality based on free debate and open democracy. And certainly no one group can claim ownership and control. But because this is the real world of politics, there will be differences and often quite intense debates at every stage of the struggle, but all individuals and groups must make every effort to avoid behaviour that destroys long term political relationships between activists. Further, uncomradely argument and bureaucratic pettiness simply alienates ordinary grassroots people, particularly those new to political activity. Who are the very people that any broad left coalition or party must seek to attract. An outwards focus, where the goal is always to relate to grassroots people who are becoming radicalised in the current political context, is crucial to maintaining a political culture which encourages the free exchange of ideas. The significance of the Venezuelan revolution Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes the question of building broad left alternatives should be considered in relation to the Venezuelan revolution and its global impact. The revolutionary process in Venezuela involves millions of people, it is democratic, it is anti-imperialist, and it is empowering grassroots Venezuelans. A whole society is being transformed. These historic events provide all of us who hope for social change an opportunity to point to a real life alternative. This must be utilised by any broad left formation serious about advancing the movement in their own country. In addition, it is our opinion that the Venezuelan revolution holds some important lessons for broad left formations looking to build a mass movement. Socialism for the 21st century is being achieved by a strategically and tactically astute leadership putting in front of grassroots Venezuelans inspiring but attainable goals that have then been acted upon by millions of people. Through this process the struggle has pressed on towards socialist goals. We can look to advancing the movement in this way inside our own countries through broad left formations presenting well considered demands and policies out to masses of ordinary people. A new mass socialist international Recently, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez proposed a new International of socialist parties and the left for Latin America and the Caribbean. An international forum is being planned for 2008. It’s our belief that the Venezuelan revolution and the wider Latin American uprisings are indeed providing the essential material foundations for a new socialist international of the type that Chávez is proposing. A new International would be a hugely significant development for a grassroots, inclusive and democratic struggle against corporate imperialism. A mass socialist international that links the inspiring example of the Venezuelan revolution with radical forces in other countries would have moral and political authority in the eyes of millions. It could give real leadership and coordination to the global struggle against poverty, eco-destruction and war. As a step towards creating a new International, Socialist Worker-New Zealand is proposing to comrades in Venezuela and international socialists the urgent formation of an International Editorial Committee to facilitate a multi-language international discussion on the global significance of the Venezuelan revolution. A global programme for a living world The formation of a new mass socialist international would expand prospects for building a global broad left movement. It is Socialist Worker-New Zealand’s belief that the broad left strategy being pursued within individual countries can be supplemented and enhanced by a global broad left programme. A global programme for a living world, founded on the rights of humans to dignity, prosperity and peace, would electrify and unite the international struggle. Especially if it was promoted by an International that included the newly formed United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), set to be the biggest mass party of the left in the world. A global programme that includes general and specific demands generated by the movement would build practical solidarity between peoples in different countries. A common programme that has mass buy-in from left and socialist forces on every continent would be a truly powerful force for social change. Such a bold international strategy would provide a massive lift to the struggle in every country, potentially acting as a force to overcome unevenness in the global movement. By forging bonds of international solidarity we strengthen the struggle in our own countries. Relating to the struggle here and now The political focus of socialists and the radical left has to be on relating to the problems and opportunities in front of the movement now. To miss the opportunities that are present, through a lack of vision or through sectarian political practices, could bring grave consequences for humanity and the struggle to achieve a just society. In the absence of broad left coalitions or parties with a mass following it will be the right that stands to benefit in a situation of intensified capitalist crisis. It was not predetermined that the activists who have worked in and alongside Respect since 2004 would come to see the project arrive at its present point. Given the correct political outlook, commitment and vision, socialists and radical leftists can work cooperatively in broad left formations. Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes this is possible and absolutely necessary in the current political context. Organising to achieve increased confidence and political involvement of grassroots people in a progressive movement for social change should be the immediate priority of the international movement. We would like to establish links with all activists who are interested in our thoughts on building a global broad left movement. Contact In solidarity, Central committee of Socialist Worker-New Zealand SIGNED BY Don Archer Grant Brookes Vaughan Gunson Bernie Hornfeck Peter Hughes Daphne Lawless Grant Morgan Len Parker Tony Snelling-Berg Appendix New Zealand's 10-point Workers Charter has been endorsed by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and is included in the manifesto of RAM (Residents Action Movement). The 10 points of the Workers Charter are: 1. The right to a job that pays a living wage and gives us time with our families and communities. 2. The right to pay equity for women, youth and casual workers. 3. The right to free public healthcare and education, and to liveable superannuation and welfare. 4. The right to decent housing without crippling mortgages and rents. 5. The right to public control of assets vital to community well-being. 6. The right to protect our environment from corporate greed. 7. The right to express our personal identity free from discrimination. 8. The right to strike in defence of our interests. 9. The right to organise for the transfer of wealth and power from the haves to the have-nots. 10. The right to unite with workers in other lands against corporate globalisation and war.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Victory to the American writers' strike!

Writers Make History on the Picket Lines

Galvanized by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' refusal to bargain fairly members of the Writers Guild of America, West and Writers Guild of America, East refused to go to work and staged the largest action in the Guild's 74-year history.

On Monday, November 5 at 12:01 a.m, more than 3,000 WGAW members walked picket lines throughout the day at 14 locations and demanded that the Companies bargain fairly with writers. By Tuesday, the number had swelled to 3,200.

“The level of support is fantastic not only within the Guild but with the general public,” said former Simpsons showrunner Mike Scully. “We've never had more leverage than we have right now.”

“We've had more support than I could have imagined,” added TV writer Jamie Rhonheimer. “Everybody is in this for the long haul.”

Joe Medeiros, head writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a member since 1989, said he had never seen the membership as unified as it is now. For Medieros, the historic turnout spoke to the significance and urgency of these negotiations and the issue of New Media, in particular.

“I see the handwriting on the wall,” said Medieros about New Media. “That's the way television's going. That's how my kids watch stuff. They're downloading it, they're watching it on their computers, and the writers aren't being paid for that. If we don't do something now, we're gonna be out of business.”

Writers made it clear that this fight was not only for themselves but for those who will follow them. “I'm so terrified for the next generation of writers to come that their residuals will be diminished or taken away entirely once we make the move to computers,” said Desperate Housewives' Marc Cherry. “That's why this strike is so important. We're fighting for our fair share of the New Media business, and if we don't get it now, we may all be screwed in the future.”

“People who fought this fight before us have made sure that guys who only work half the time get enough residuals to live,” said Medieros. “That's why we're fighting this fight for the writers of the future. We can't leave them out in the cold when it comes to what's going to happen five, 10 years from now with the Internet.”

Writers are winning over the public

Study shows people side with scribes


There's an image war raging during the WGA strike, and the writers seem to be winning.

Public sympathy sides with the scribes, as a study, released Wednesday, indicates.

And during the past few weeks, mainstream media outlets have devoted significant coverage to the strike in news stories and op-ed pieces. Slate's Jack Shafer noted Tuesday that such coverage has been generally sympathetic.

It certainly helps the writers that the companies with which they are at war have CEOs that have to talk out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they have to claim everything is financially rosy so shareholders are happy. That includes profit forecasts from downloads and other digital platforms. Problem is, when it comes to the strike, that's the very area which they claim isn't monetizable at all.

But while writers may be enjoying their public standing, IATSE topper Thomas Short is swiping away, claiming that a strike was always pre-set.

"It's time to put egos aside and recognize how crucial it is to get everyone back to work, before there is irreversible damage from which this industry can never recover," Short said in a letter to WGA West's Patric Verrone.

The WGA trumpeted a pair of surveys Wednesday showing plenty of public sympathy with backing of 69% in a Pepperdine poll and 63% in a SurveyUSA poll, while the companies received a only a smattering of support with 4% and 8%, respectively.

And the announcement came on the same day that WGA West prexy Patric Verrone and SAG topper Alan Rosenberg huddled with multiple elected officials in Washington, D.C., to explain the guilds' position.

"These polls prove that the public understands what's at stake here," Verrone said in a statement. "Our fight represents the fight for all American workers for a fair deal."

The news release also included a strong endorsement of the WGA's position by a labor economist at Pepperdine, which conducted the survey. "Public sentiment plus the economic disruption that the strike has caused can serve as powerful leverage and bodes well for writers in ongoing negotiations," said David Smith.

As for talks, no new ones are scheduled. In what could be a positive development, AMPTP chief Nick Counter has dropped the condition that the guild has to stop the strike for a few days for negotiations to resume.

In response to Short's letter, Verrone said: "Our fight should be your fight," and noted that "for every four cents writers receive in theaterical residuals, directors receive four cents, actors receive 12 cents and the members of your union receive 20 cents in contributions to their health fund."

The WGA's repeatedly referred to four cents as the usual residual writers receive per DVD sale. On the last day of contract talks, guild negotiators took the DVD proposal -- seeking to double that rate -- off the table but were infuriated by what they saw as a lack of movement by the companies and have hinted since then that it might be back on the table. The WGA had no comment Wednesday about the status of its DVD proposal.

Lack of progress in getting both sides back to the table, has led to the expectation that the Directors Guild of America will launch its negotiations soon — during what would be the typical window for DGA talks of at least six months before the June 30 expiration.

But the situation's so fluid that speculation's ruling the day, such as an "interim strike" scenario in which the WGA would go back to work at some point in the next few months -- and then go back on strike if talks don't lead to a favorable deal.

Short shots

Short noted in his letter to Verrone that more than 50 TV series have been shut down by the strike.

"More will come," he added. "Thousands are losing their jobs every day. The IATSE alone has over 50,000 members working in motion picture, television and broadcasting and tens of thousands more are losing jobs in related fields."

The IATSE topper noted that he took issue late last year with Verrone over the WGA's defense of its strategy in delaying contract talks with studios and nets until the summer.

"When I phoned you on Nov. 28, 2006, to ask you to reconsider the timing of negotiations, you refused," Short said. "It now seems that you were intending that there be a strike no matter what you were offered, or what conditions the industry faced when your contract expired at the end of October."

Short also took aim at recent comments by WGA West exec director David Young, in which the exec said he would not apologize for the strike's economic impact.

"This is hardly the point of view of a responsible labor leader, someone dedicated to the preservation of an industry that has supported the economies of several major cities for decades," he added.

SAG's Rosenberg said Wednesday he decided to join Verrone in Washington D.C., because the Screen Actors Guild will be facing the same issues next year. The SAG contract expires June 30.

"It's important to impress upon (Washington) that this isn't about wealthy actors or writers getting richer," Rosenberg added. "The average writer makes $60,000 a year, the average actor makes less. It's a question of keeping our heads above water with residual payments."

Verrone and Rosenberg met with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Dingell chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Markey is chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications. At the FCC, they met with commissioners Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein and Robert McDowell.

Rosenberg and Verrone characterized the guilds as being at a disadvantage in trying to negotiate with seven multi-national conglomerates — noting that they all are supposedly competitors but negotiate together. "They're picking off the unions one at a time," Verrone said.

The WGA and supporters have also stayed on point during the past four months on the key issue of new media, in which bigwigs finding themselves infected with the mixed messaging bug.

On one hand CEOs of major media congloms are selling Wall Streeters on the fact that their digital offerings are growing like gangbusters and driving the bottom line. On the other hand, those same execs are holding out their hands and saying, a viable business model just doesn't exist and profits just aren't rolling in yet to give striking scribes what they want.

The problem is the congloms are stuck in the precarious position of angering shareholders: tell them that your company isn't growing and the stock plummets. Let the strike continue for six months or more and you anger those same shareholders, because in reality, companies will be losing revenue, as a result.

WGA supporters have compiled effective videos combining bullish pro-digital statements by moguls with the assertion that writers aren't getting anything.

So it's no surprise that company toppers are standing in the shadows and declining to state their case to an increasingly angry mob of writers. They just don't know what to say yet -- unless it's positive.

During the recent rounds of earnings reports, News Corp's Rupert Murdoch touted Fox Interactive Media as a strong profit generator, earning nearly $200 million in the past quarter alone, an 80% increase over last year, thanks to MySpace, Photobucket and other online properties.

Across town, Bob Iger said parts of 160 million TV episodes have been viewed on, while 33 million downloads of the alphabet web's shows have been purchased on Apple's iTunes store. He estimated that the Mouse House's digital revenue will be about $750 million this year.

And NBC's Jeff Zucker said that the peacock made just $15 million in a year selling video on iTunes.

Oddly, those same toppers aren't pushing forward negative numbers to hold the WGA at bay — such as Forrester Research's prediction that growth of the paid download market will drop to 100% versus 200% next year; or that the sale of movies online will drop by 56% in 2008, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

When negotiations collapsed on Nov. 4, the AMPTP had offered to start paying for streaming video with a promotional window and had agreed to give the WGA exclusive jurisdiction on made-for-the-Internet writing on derivative works.

Disney pickets

The WGA has continued to picket more than a dozen locations in Los Angeles and staged a protest outside the World of Disney store on Fifth Avenue in New York on Wednesday, drawing more than 400 supporters.

A large, inflatable, cigar-chomping pig stood at Fifth and 55th Street outside the World of Disney store. Barricades ran the length of the block between 55th and 56th when it became clear that the picketers would not be contained to the sidewalk.

"I've had a lot of pedestrians telling me, ‘Hey, good luck with this,'" said "Late Show With David Letterman" scribe Steve Young. "I don't know if the approval of tourists is going to bring Les Moonves to his knees, but it makes us feel good."

Meanwhile, breaking a lengthy studio silence, ABC Studios has become the first arm of any conglom to respond individually to allegations made during the strike that it contends are inaccurate.

A Writers Guild of America East leaflet passed out Wednesday in front of Manhattan's World of Disney store quoted Disney's Bob Iger, who has said that the conglom generates $1.5 billion in digital revenue annually. The scribes, the WGAE claimed, earn nothing from that.

An ABC Studios spokesperson, who said she was tired of reading "distortion of information" by writers in newspaper articles and blog posts without any response from the producers, drafted this statement:

"The WGA leadership is deliberately distorting the facts. As the WGA knows full well, more than half of Disney's digital revenues are from sales of travel packages and the vast majority of the rest is from online advertising on sites like and and through online merchandise sales. The WGA also knows its members have been paid residuals on entertainment content downloaded via iTunes. Deliberately misleading the public is not the best way to resolve this issue and get Hollywood back to work."

In response, the WGAE didn't disagree with Disney's account of where the $1.5 billion comes from, but did point out that the congloms have so far not been willing to open the books and prove how much money has been generated specifically from TV/film downloads and streaming:

"We would better know the nature of Disney's and ABC's revenues from digital if they would more fully and transparently reveal them to us. For example, their statement does not mention that much of the online advertising on their websites accompanies streaming video of our members' work in television and film for which they receive absolutely nothing. All we're asking for is a fair, respectful, small share."

Separately, a group of assistants is organizing a picket to support the WGA. Slated to take place Monday from 12-2 p.m. in front of the main gate of the Fox lot, organizers said the event is for below-the-line employees, "especially those who've lost their job due to the strike" to "show the media conglomerates that they need to take responsibility for their own decisions and not blame the writers for their layoffs."

Cops, SIS create terror panic over FOUR GUNS

Contrary to panicky rumour, the police found no AK-47s, no molotov cocktails and no napalm bombs at Ruatoki. All they found were four rifles, a few rounds of ammunition and a lot of tough talk. Your average National or ACT member living in a rural area probably has more than that in their shed. It's shown once again that the Terror Raids were nothing to do with fighting an actual threat to life, limb or property. This is all about criminalising and anathematising Maori sovereignty, ecologist and anarchist activism. The police, SIS, and the right-wing blogosphere know that it's not illegal to talk tough and play soldier - but they want to make it so, at least for people whose political views they don't like. When former leaders of neo-Nazi organisations do it, though, it's apparently okay - unless Kyle Chapman's "Survive Club" is next to be raided by battalions of ninjas.

Terror raids - charges linked to just 4 guns

5:00AM Saturday November 17, 2007 By Phil Taylor

The anti-terror raids of October 15 resulted in the seizure of only four weapons and 230 rounds of ammunition that have led to charges.

The early-morning raids involved more than 300 officers.

The police have not said what they seized in the property searches in Auckland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Christchurch using warrants alleging crimes under the Terrorism Suppression Act and have declined a request to do so.

But of 16 people charged with firearms offences, items seized on October 15 are the basis of charges against only two - Tame Iti, and a man who has name suppression.

The charges Iti faces include illegal possession on that date of three rifles - a Ruger, a Siga and a Machtech - while the other man is charged in regard to a Ruger rifle and 100 rounds of .22 calibre bullets and 130 rounds of .303 calibre ammunition.

The police said it was inappropriate to comment about matters before the court.

Many of the 16 are charged jointly with up to 12 others and the dates the offences are alleged to have occurred relate to dates of the alleged training camps in the Ureweras. The earliest charges relate to November 2006.

The Crown predominantly appears to rely on evidence from surveillance of the camps and interception of conversations. While the latter would be admissible for charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act, it is unlikely to be for firearms charges.

Meanwhile, the Solicitor-General says he has no plans to provide a detailed assessment of flaws he identified in the Terrorism Suppression Act, which he said was "almost impossible to apply in a coherent manner".

His criticism prompted the Government to refer the matter to the Law Commission.

An Auckland University specialist in criminal procedure, Associate Professor Scott Optican, said Dr Collins' input would be invaluable to the commission because he had assessed the evidence and the terrorism law.

"How can the Law Commission comment on the sufficiency of a law unless they know exactly what are the problems alleged with it with respect to the facts of this case," said Professor Optican, a former prosecutor.

"I haven't been convinced enough to know whether there really is a problem in the law or [whether] the case just failed for lack of proof.

"You have to make a rational argument as to what is wrong with the law and why you want it to get at behaviour that it doesn't get at. Just to say the law is rubbish isn't enough; you have to be very specific in light of the facts of the case."

A spokeswoman for Dr Collins said he was not doing a report on the matter and had not been asked to.

But it was usual for the commission in the course of reviews of legislation to consult all agencies with an interest in the particular legislation.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Defend free speech - defend the Urewera 17

"...soon as the cops round the buggers up and treat them as criminals the better..."
- Labour cabinet minister Shane Jones (right) shows an admirable devotion to the principles of free expression and "innocent until proven guilty". In the wake of the collapse of the terror case against the Urewera 17, the police (and, possibly, the SIS) have been running around trying to pawn off their "evidence" on whichever media outlet is most keen for an old-fashioned lynching. First TV3, then the Herald on Sunday, and today the Dominion-Post. The only way to explain this contempt for the judicial process is that the cops have decided that they can't criminalise most or even all of the defendants in a court of law, and have decided that trial by media, smear and innuendo is the only way forward to achieve their aims. Socialist Worker has said from the beginning that the real agenda behind the terror raids was to criminalise radical dissent, particularly from Maori sovereigntists, ecological activists and anarchists. And if they can't manage that, they can at least try to line up public opinion behind a witchhunt. Witness the disgusting racist cartoons that appeared in yesterday's newspapers. The police and their media patsies want you to be disturbed that people were allegedly talking about assassinations or property damage. Unfortunately for the cops, while making plans to do any such thing is illegal, simply discussing it is not. This is why the Urewera 17 aren't up on "conspiracy to murder" or "conspiracy to damage property" charges - the police have nothing. The end goal of this media witchhunt is to gain public support for criminalisation of speech, thought and actions which aren't illegal yet. Do New Zealanders want to live in a country where even talking about certain subjects is illegal? That's the question we have to answer. If the Urewera 17 are branded with the scarlet letter of terrorism, how long before anyone who doesn't accept the current "rules of the game" are in the same boat? When will they come for Hone Harawira - or even Keith Locke? The only thing in the leaked "evidence" which is even close to being illegal under actual existing law is the possession of unlicenced firearms - and, rumour has it, "possession" is a very loose term for quite a few of the defendants. Regardless of whether we agree with their political ideas or strategy, all those who believe that there should be real political debate in this country should stand by the Urewera 17, and by the idea that thought and speech should not be criminalised or anathematised unless there's a damn good reason for it. The cheerleaders for state terror say that "there is no reason for violence in a democracy". Perhaps they might want to look at the social exclusion, exploitation and racism that underpins their vaunted "democracy for a few", and decide whether those who refuse to toe the line deserve to have state terror and media slander unleashed on them. Unpopular political speech is not, nor should it be, a crime. The job of the police is to prevent crime, not to engage in media witchhunts against people they just don't like.

A new figurehead for Venezuelan counterrevolution?

Venezuela: Reform battle continues as Chavez ally splits
Federico Fuentes, Caracas 12 November 2007 Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas on November 4, in a massive sea of red, to support the proposed constitutional reforms adopted by the National Assembly that will be put to a referendum on December 2. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has explained that the reforms aim to deepen the Bolivarian revolution that his government is leading, which has already achieved significant gains in redistributing wealth and power to the poor majority. On November 6, Chavez explained to a swearing-in ceremony for activists involved in the National Zamora Command, launched to campaign in favour of the proposed reforms, that the referendum “is the most important battle” of the Bolivarian revolution so far. He said “destabilisation, abstention and the ‘No’ vote, are the three principal adversaries we have to defeat”. Chavez argued that the socialism the reforms aimed at providing a framework to help construct would be “democratic and humanist”. Chavez explained that “this economic system will be managed by everyone”, claiming that democratising the economy was essential to defeat poverty and create happiness. He argued that this conflicted with the interests of capitalism and imperialism, and that this explained the ongoing offensive against his government by the US government and local opposition. Confirming Chavez’s speculation in his speech to the November 4 rally that some leading Chavistas would jump ship and join the counter-revolutionary opposition, the following day retired General Raul Baduel, who had been defence minister until July and who played a key role in defeating the April 2002 US-backed military coup against Chavez, broke a three-month silence declaring his opposition to the reforms. He said they represent a “constitutional coup” — the same claim made by the right-wing opposition. During the press conference, to which only pro-opposition media outlets were invited, Baduel argued that the proposed reforms would “seize power away from the people”. “The only democratic and legal means left to us is to vote ‘No’ and defend ourselves [against] this undemocratic imposition.” Baduel called on the armed forces to “profoundly analyse” the proposed changes to the structure of the military (transforming the reserves into a “popular militia” among other steps), declaring “it must be stopped”, adding that “the capacity of Venezuelan military men to analyse and think” should not be underestimated. This defection came two days after a sizable mobilisation, organised by the radical opposition group, the National Resistance Command (CNR) and supported by a number of opposition parties, called for a boycott of the referendum. CNR leader Hermann Escarra proclaimed: “This is not about whether or not to vote, it is about impeding [the reforms].” The speakers, applauding right-wing students who had led small but violent protests against the reforms, called for a march “without return” for November 26. Speculation spread rapidly about the meaning of Baduel’s statements. Within hours, two former defence ministers, general Jorge Garcia Carneiro and admiral Orlando Manigilia, spoke against him. Carneiro accused Baduel of having held “dubious” positions for a while, and argued his comments would not have any impact in the military. Manigilia reminded the military that they have the right to exercise their democratic vote, but not to involve themselves in party politics. Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez argued that Baduel’s speech would have little effect, “not even a breeze”. “Baduel has said the same thing that the opposition has been saying … he is not saying anything new.” Rodriquez welcomed, however, Baduel’s call to participate in the referendum. Chavez declared Baduel a “traitor” and said he had become “a pawn in this game [of the opposition]. We will be on alert because it is part of a plan that without doubt aims to fill the streets of Venezuela with violence”. He added that Baduel’s shift to the opposition in the context of the deepening struggle for socialism was good because it clarified his position. “It is not strange that when a submarine goes deeper the pressure is increased and can free a loose screw. The weak points are going to leave, and I believe it is good that they leave”, Chavez said. Chavez added “I’m completely sure there is no current within the armed forces that has the necessary strength to carry out a successful coup d’etat or to lead the country to a civil war”. However he explained that there would be a meeting of the military high command because “there is nothing innocent about this”. Miranda Governor Diosdado Cabello also criticised Baduel, saying that his arguments were the same as the opposition’s, and that “I believe he must have met with them”. Cabello added that he never swallowed the story that Baduel was a hero during the 2002 coup. A different take was provided by Chavista National Assembly deputy Luis Tascon, who said that it would be “stupid” to say that this was simply about the betrayal of one person, and would not affect Chavismo. Tascon argued that Baduel’s treachery represented “a division within Chavismo”, adding that Baduel had been widely respected among Chavistas. Rather than simply attacking Baduel, Tascon argued it was necessary to politically debate the issues at stake and that there could be further rumblings within Chavismo. He also pointed to the influence of powerful groups and business interests behind Baduel’s moves. Immediately after Baduel’s press conference, six opposition parties, some of whom were previously calling for a boycott, called for “massive” participation in the referendum and registered at the National Electoral Council to officially become part of the “No” campaign. They were later joined by another eight, including Podemos — a social-democratic party that until this year had been part of the Chavista camp, but have moved rapidly towards the opposition as more radical, socialist-oriented measures have been introduced. The opposition press were quick to point to the potential emergence of a new opposition leader in Baduel, changing their editorial lines from supporting a boycott to backing a “No” vote. As speculation whirls around the possible ramifications of Baduel’s declarations inside the military, most analysts, pro- and anti-Chavista, agree that it is unlikely that this could lead in the immediate future to a military coup. At his press conference, Baduel, who was dressed in civilian clothing as opposed to his military uniform, made clear he did not speak for the military and repeatedly emphasised the need to vote “No”, which seems to indicate that his statements were more aimed at giving confidence to those individuals in the military who are opposed to reforms, and not necessarily a direct incitement to rebellion. It has been widely reported that Baduel sought out other military figures to speak out at the same time, although no one was willing to accept. Given that strong opponents of the revolution are a small minority in the military, a premature move would lead to a quick defeat and a further purge of counter-revolutionaries. The Venezuelan military has been undergoing a significant transformation since the uprising of much of the armed forces along with the poor majority that defeated the 2002 coup against Chavez. This lead to the clearing out of large sections of those who had been involved in the coup, with control of the military passing over from the capitalist elite to the Bolivarian forces. This was further deepened during the bosses lockout in December 2002-February 2003, when the armed forces, alongside the people and particularly the oil workers, worked to regain control of the oil industry and break the sabotage of the capitalist class. However, the process is ongoing and not irreversible. As the revolution deepens, the possibility of increased internal fractures grows. Comprised of men and women who live in a society, there is no doubt that the full spectrum of politics in Venezuela is also reflected within the military. No-one doubts that US imperialism and the opposition retain some influence within the military, and they hope to deepen divisions among those that have until now backed Chavez. One issue in relation to this is the resistance within the military to moves away from the concept of a “professionalised” armed forces — reflected in some of the amendments subsequently made to Chavez’s initial proposals to reform articles of the constitution relating to the military. Given Baduel’s statement that he would not rule out a future political career, and the timing of this declaration to coincide with the beginning of the official referendum campaign, it seems to indicate an intention to position himself as the new leader of the opposition. His statement’s timing, after three months of public silence, lends credence to the idea that this is part of a bigger plan around which he has been conspiring with others. Presenting Baduel as separate from the thoroughly discredited old opposition forces, the aim is to win over a section of Chavismo that, while supporting Chavez, is not convinced, or is opposed to, the reforms and would prefer to abstain rather than support the opposition. However, Baduel’s mimicking of opposition catch-phrases, such as “constitutional coup”, have undermined this attempt. Although the full impact of this fracturing of Chavismo is yet to be seen, it no doubt will have a greater impact than previous splits, including by Podemos. Baduel was widely seen as a real hero of the revolution, and many in the civilian left had worked closely with him in strengthening organisational bonds with sections of the military around the time of the coup. He continues to proclaim his adherence to “Bolivarianism” (while rejecting its radical aspects), giving him more potential than the existing opposition to draw behind him sectors of Chavismo. Chavez revealed that in the lead-up to the presidential elections last year, some Chavistas were campaigning to make Baduel vice-president. This year, Baduel began to express publicly some disagreements with aspects of the Bolivarian revolution, raising doubts over what kind of socialism was being built and defending the need for a “professional” standing army in counter-position to the proposed reform re-organising the reserves into a popular militias. Chavez pointed out that behind all this are business interests and groups of power, fearful of losing their privileges, and that it reflects the ideological weakness of the revolution. These points tend to point to the idea that Baduel’s defection, carried out both in collaboration with the opposition and some of the right-wing Chavista elements whose position is referred to as “Chavismo without Chavez” hopes to take advantage of confusion amongst Chavista ranks and conservative sections of the military. The aim is to crate a counterweight to the radical course that Chavez, and the majority of working people, seem determined to take. Part of the plan is to attempt to slow the revolutionary process by arguing for negotiations with “moderate” opposition sectors. Baduel’s defection provides further evidence of a new campaign of destabilisation that is being unleashed by the opposition — with the backing of the US — which has so far failed in a number of attempts at overthrowing the Chavez government and rolling back the gains of the revolution. The violent campaign by small groups of fascist students — with the burning of buildings and vehicles, including that belonging to the environment minister — continued the day after Baduel’s press conference. The campaign has included a number of shootings on university campuses. The national and international media have attempted to portray the students as victims of a “dictatorship”, either implying or outright lying that the shootings were carried out by Chavista forces. One example was a highly publicised shooting in the University of Zulia on November 2 that was initially blamed on Chavista students. Once it was revealed that the death had been a result of a shoot out between two rival opposition parties, the overwhelmingly anti-Chavez private media quickly dropped the story without clarifying the truth. (This should at least put to rest the lie these days Chavez controls the media.) Combined with the growing presence of paramilitaries on the border region with Colombia, this is further evidence that the opposition has unleashed a new destabilisation plan with the backing of US imperialism — with Baduel a key component. They hope to substitute for their lack of any mass support base with a climate of tension and fear — amplified by the national and international media who are central to this plan. If they cannot stop the reforms from going ahead, they hope that they can encourage or intimidate enough people to either boycott or vote “No” in order to present the reforms as illegitimate, adding weight to argument of conservative sectors of Chavismo to slow down the process. It is in this context that Chavez has described the referendum as the revolution’s “most important battle”, because “it is much more defining” of the fundamental nature of the process than previous struggles. Speaking at the November 4 rally, Chavez explained that the 1999 constitution had left in place some obstacles to the “development of the Bolivarian project and the construction of socialism”. The reforms represent a break with the “false principal that politics is the art of the possible … No, politics is the art of making possible tomorrow what today seems impossible, this is truly revolutionary politics ….” “By signalling socialism as the goal … [the reform campaign] began to generate additional tensions in the process”, Chavez explained. He said that while some argue that it is necessary to reach this objective via slow moves, “many times these end up being slower every day until it reaches zero”. “That is why the proposal is a proposal of rupture … We will never get to socialism with the bureaucratic trickle down from above … The reform overturns this concept; we will only reach socialism by unleashing the power of the people … That is the essence of the proposal.” That is why, Chavez declared, that “our campaign strategy, our principal objective is to approve the constitutional reform in a resounding manner”. He added that popular mobilisation was “the vaccine against a coup, against destabilisation, against the oligarchy, against Bush. This is what happened” when the 2002 coup was defeated, it was “the people in the streets, popular mobilisation, and of course, our soldiers together with the people.” He added that the “fundamental motor” of the campaign would be the socialist battalions, the base units of new United Socialist Party of Venezuela, whose explicit aim is to organise the revolutionary vanguard into a united fighting organisation to deepen the process. It is clear that the battle over the next three weeks — and then immediately afterwards — will be crucial for the future of the revolutionary process. Not just for what a defeat would mean for Chavez and the opposition respectively, but for the process of change as a whole. From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #731 14 November 2007.