Thursday, 28 February 2008
Commentary: Pat OD
"Just whistle when you need us, we're Allied Workforce
Phone 0800 LABOUR
Phone 0800 LABOUR"
"We're Allied Workforce."
You've probably heard this jingle on the radio.
You may have been slightly offended by the concept that workers can be
conjured up by a whistle from the boss. (like a farmer whistles up his
But what you may have missed, because they don't play it all the time,
is one factory manager gloating that Allied Workforce had made him an
extra three hundred and twenty five thousand dollars a year Because he
didn't have to pay their wages in the inevitable down time, that all
production processes face. Which he would have to do for permanent workers.
So who pays?
Casual workers are usually low paid, and the rent and bills don't stop
coming when you are stood down.
So these workers and their family's are squeezed out of any income for
sometimes quite long periods to plump up profits.
Casual workers are very hard to organise, because the work is never
If you worked last week doesn't mean you will get work next week, or
even the next day, or even ever again.
And joining a union is guaranteed to stop the phone ringing.
This industrial cancer is being helped in its spread by the Labour
Government's Employment Relations Act.
A current poll being run by the Maritime workers union had members put
job security and casualisation as the top concern of workers, even above
wages or health provision.
So what's the answer? The Maritime Union is addressing this question
head on and recruiting casuals and contractors into the union and
pledging them the same union protection as permanent workers.
Of course this effort to defend and benefit the position of casuals is
not helped by the ERA law, which makes it illegal for workers to take
industrial action to better the lot of casuals being exploited in this
way by the bosses.
If casuals are not called in the next day by their agency, for any
reason or none, or even because they joined the union. It is completely
legal for their workmates to take any industrial action in their defence.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
A resounding defeat for Greek Cypriot Nationalism and Neo-liberalism
The results of last Sunday¹s (24/2) crucial presidential runoff in Cyprus (Southern part) brought to office Dimitris Christofias the Communist Party leader who clinched 53% of the vote in an unprecedented victory for the island's communist AKEL party, beating the conservative Yiannis Kasoulides, who polled 46% of the vote. As the biggest Greek Cypriot political party, AKEL controls one-third of the vote but for the first time in its 82-year history fielded its own candidate for president. The communists have preferred to form a strategic alliance with a centrist or leftwing contender and play a back-seat role in government. It¹s no surprise then that Sunday¹s (24/2) results led its jubilant supporters, among them many Turkish Cypriots who crossed from North to South, to flood the streets of capital Nicosia, waving red and Che Guevara flags, honking car horns and lighting flares.
Christofias¹ victory added to another surprise victory in the first round when Tassos Papadopoulos, the incumbent president of the Republic of Cyprus was ousted.
All previous opinion polls leading up to the first round (17/2), showed the three main candidates for the presidency Demetris Christofias, Yiannis Kasoulides from the right wing DISY party and Papadopoulos who was supported by two other small parties, to be neck and neck.
The defeat of the 74-year old Papadopoulos, a renowned anti-Turk who adopted a hard-line approach to the Cyprus issue, was the undisputed favourite to win the elections.
Papadopoulos was the president who led the "no" campaign for the Annan Plan on a nationalist basis during the referendum in 2004 when 76% of Greek Cypriots (G/C) rejected it. During the whole of the election campaign the Papadopoulos camp made nationalism and his hard-line approach towards the Turkish Cypriots (T/C) the central theme of their rhetoric, declaring that these elections were a second «referendum». The other two rival candidates had campaigned on a platform of resuming peace talks frozen for five years under Papadopoulos and in favour of a solution based on respect for both communities.
Interestingly, of those who voted against the Annan Plan in 2004, 60% supported the two main challengers sending them through to the second round. The results of the first round confirm what we in Workers Democracy have been arguing in our analysis of the referendum that not all Greek Cypriots who voted "NO" were nationalists but they rejected the Annan Plan because they did not trust George Bush and his accomplice Tony Blair to promote peace in Cyprus - only their own plans for Cyprus as the 'unsinkable aircraft-carrier' in the region.
AKEL¹s recent record
In February 2003 Papadopoulos won the presidency with the support of communist AKEL and another two nationalist smaller parties. As a result AKEL joined a coalition government with 4 out of a total of 11 ministers.
Papadopoulos¹ election coincided with the massive anti-war demonstrations internationally as well as in Cyprus against the invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain.
Despite Papadopoulos¹ rhetoric that he will be an obstacle to the conspiracy by Great Powers against Œlittle Cyprus¹ he proved to be a faithful ally to USA-Britain and Bush¹s war against Œterrorism¹. During his 5-year administration he offered every facility to US for logistics and communications in attacking Iraq, offered the use of Cyprus ports, airspace and the two British bases by US warships and aircraft carriers, much to the embarrassment of AKEL, its major partner.
During his term Papadopoulos apart from his nationalist-intransigent stance towards the T/Cs, the racist measures he adopted towards immigrants he followed a neo-liberal agenda while AKEL took a tolerant stance. During this period, Papadopoulos clashed repeatedly with sections of the working class and the youth when he increased the retirement age for public sector workers from 60 to 63 and tried to increase it also in the private sector. Large scandals engulfed also his government, much to the discontent of ordinary people.
All these, forced the leadership of AKEL to withdraw from the coalition government six months prior to presidential elections when it became clear to the leadership that its rank and file would not stomach another five-year term of a Papadopoulos government. It was on this basis that AKEL decided for the first time to stand its General Secretary, Christofias, as a presidential candidate in this election.
What became a determinant factor in these elections was not nationalism but the unprecedented class polarisation seen in society, the clash between left and right.
The choice for Greek Cypriot (G/C) workers was clear: people had to choose between the Tory DISY party and the reformist AKEL. The candidate of DISY, Kasoulides a genuine candidate of the G/C ruling class, endorsed the ŒHelleno-Christian¹ ideals, the insistence on ŒGreekness¹, anti-communism, the alliance with Great Powers, and the full acceptance of the Papadopoulos¹ hard-line on the Cyprus issue. It¹s no surprise then that Kasoulides enjoyed the open support of the employers, of the Archbishop and of the ultra-nationalist ŒAssociation of ex-EOKA fighters¹.
Christofias, the candidate of AKEL pulled in the runoff the support of the other two parties who formed previously the coalition government. AKEL¹s candidate is seen by a large section of ordinary people as the representative of the working class and a symbol of peaceful co-existence with the T/Cs and historically committed to re-unification of the island. The preference shown to Christofias as the new president among the T/Cs is rated at the high 85% according to the T/C daily "Kibrisli".
AKEL may still boast busts of Lenin and red flags at its headquarters but it is a reformist, Œpatriotic¹ party which has been associated for decades with the choices of the G/C ruling class and G/C capitalism. Christofias repeatedly stated that as president Œwill manage capitalism but with in a humane way¹. However, the majority of the people that voted Christofias with enthusiasm last Sunday, anticipating a better life, a more "just society" and an "equitable settlement" of the Cyprus issue as declared by Christofias, will not return home after the elections. They want to see these promises delivered. The people forming a large left section existing inside and outside AKEL, who united they fought the battle for the election of Christofias they will be the same people who will dash again to the front line of the battle to support Christofias when he will be hard-pushed by the right but also to oppose him mightily when he will turn adversely to the working class interests.
Now it is the time to start building a left alternative fighting for socialism, the only real just society that can exist. Building a left alternative that will wage a persistent war against nationalism and racism, which would confront and not appease the imperialists in return for diplomatic gains in Œour national question¹. An anti-capitalist left that it would support the working class struggles.
The unity among the left that was brought about first by the candidature of Christofias and the euphoria and the self-confidence reigned by tonight¹s victory can give a robust impulse to that direction.
Workers Democracy Group
Without us it would be deadly boring in [Hamburg's parliament]," said Left party activist Gregor Gysi at an election rally in the port city on Wednesday.
The Left Party took 6.4% of the vote in the Northern German city state of Hamburg, winning 8 seats in the provincial legislature. Merkel's CDU won 42.6 percent of the vote compared with 34.1 percent for Kurt Beck's Social Democratic Party, the SPD's second-worst result in Hamburg since World War II, preliminary results showed today. The Greens, which took 12.3 percent last time, landed at 9.6 percent, while the Free Democrats, with 4.7 percent, fell short of the 5 percent threshold to enter the state parliament.
The arrival of the Left Party in Hamburg scuppered the hopes of the SPD and the Greens of forming a coalition. The Left's gains in Hamburg bring its representation to 10 of Germany's 16 regional assemblies, underscoring the party's widening national appeal. The Left's rise, bolstered by an investigation this month of hundreds of people on suspicion of evading German taxes by funneling funds to Liechtenstein, makes coalition-building between the main parties and their political allies increasingly problematic.
The Left Party, a combination of former Communists, disillusioned Social Democrats and western radicals and revolutionary socialists, won enough votes last month in the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony to win parliamentary representation. While the Left Party is well represented in the east and has parliamentary seats in the northern city-state of Bremen, it had never sat in one of the large western states’ parliaments.
The votes contributed to a brewing sense of political helplessness.
“The German political system is now effectively in gridlock,” said Jackson Janes, director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, a research group based in Washington. “And no one knows how to get it out.”
"The success of the Left have recognizably altered the discussions on policy in the other parties," said Renate Koecher of the Allensbach Institute for public opinion research.
"The efforts of the SPD to re-establish itself with leftist positions ... have brought it little benefit but have rather strengthened the Left," she said.
Monday, 25 February 2008
In recent weeks, external and internal pressure against Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, as the process of change led by socialist President Hugo Chavez is known, has intensified dramatically.
In addition, growing internal problems, with a strengthening of the right-wing of the Chavista movement — known as the “endogenous right", who support implementing some reforms without breaking with capitalism — pose a serious threat to the survival of the revolution.
Chavez’s proposed constitutional reforms were aimed at institutionalising greater popular power and increasing restrictions on capitalists to the benefit of working people. In response, the capitalist-owned private media launched a campaign based on lies and disinformation aimed at confusing the Venezuelan people.
Combined with low intensity economic sabotage — contributing to shortages of basic goods such as milk — the opposition was able to stoke the discontent that exists among the poor over problems such as corruption and bureaucratism.
Nearly 3 million people who voted for Chavez in the December 2006 presidential election abstained in the referendum, handing the opposition its first electoral victory since Chavez came to power in 1998.
Attempting to build on this, a renewed US offensive has been unleashed aimed at isolating Chavez internationally, and undermining the process of Latin American integration spearheaded by Venezuela.
A key part of the strategy has involved fanning the flames of conflict between Venezuela and neighbouring Colombia. A dispute broke out after right-wing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe initially invited Chavez to help negotiate with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)— Colombia’s largest left-wing guerrilla group — over a potential prisoner swap with the Colombian state, only to abruptly terminate Chavez’s role in November.
Chavez nonetheless negotiated the unilateral release on January 10 of two prisoners held by the FARC. He also called for an end to the inclusion of the FARC on lists of banned terrorist organisations as a step towards finding a political solution to Colombia’s decades-long civil war.
The US responded by having a number of high-profile US officials visit Colombia and verbally attack Venezuela.
Although “not aware of any specific support Mr Chavez has provided the FARC”, the Pentagon’s joint chief of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, in January still levelled false allegations that Chavez was granting the FARC “strategic support”.
John Walters, the director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, accused Chavez on January 29 of being a “major facilitator of the international drug trade”, despite an increase in interdiction of drug trafficking by the Venezuelan state.
The most serious imperialist attack came via a series of court orders obtained by US oil giant ExxonMobil, backed by the US State Department, to freeze US$12 billion worth of assets of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, in both British and Dutch courts — a move described by Chavez as part of an “economic war”.
The move is in retaliation to the nationalisation of ExxonMobil investments in Venezuela’s Orinoco oil belt last year. PDVSA provides up to $13 billion a year for government-initiated social programs that provide free education and healthcare to Venezuela’s poor.
ExxonMobil’s actions are intended to also send a message to other Latin American countries considering resource nationalisation — imperialism will fight back.
The Venezuelan opposition is also intensifying its destablisation campaign. The previously hopelessly divided opposition, boosted in confidence by the referendum results, is working towards a strong, unified campaign for the November elections for state governors and mayors.
This is combined with increasing extra-parliamentary destablisation, including a stepping up of economic sabotage by capitalists — reminiscent of the sabotage against the left-wing Chilean government that preceded the US-backed military coup by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973.
The campaign involves the hoarding, speculation and smuggling of food, contributing to shortages. This is combined with a virulent media campaign aimed at fuelling discontent.
The opposition is increasing its focus on the poor majority that make up Chavez’s support base. It is seeking to take advantage of discontent to infiltrate the barrios through what it calls “popular networks”, which work to spread rumours, promote discontent and divisions among Chavistas — and mobilise people against the government.
According to Eva Golinger, who has exposed the extent of US intervention into Venezuela, these networks receive funding and training from the US government-funded USAID.
There are also reports of growing links between right-wing Colombian paramilitaries, organised crime and sections of the Venezuelan opposition, especially in the states bordering Colombia. Large landowners have contracted paramilitaries to murder at least 190 campesinos (peasants) in recent years in an attempt to sabotage the land reform process promoted by the government.
Paramilitaries have also developed a presence in Caracas barrios. Funded by local businesses and dressed as civilians, they engage in drug dealing and act as hired assassins. This has helped impede community organising.
In response to such pressure, Chavez has called for greater unity within the revolution.
However, serious divisions exist within the Bolivarian movement, which includes powerful pro-capitalist economic and political blocs — some with important influence in the military. This sector controls a number of ministries and a large part of the National Assembly, as well as mayor and governor offices, and is linked to a state bureaucracy unwilling to cede power.
There is also a more radical left, strong among the grassroots as well as elements within the state, which wants to deepen the process and overcome the corruption and bureaucratism holding back the revolution’s advance.
Since the peak of the period of intensive mobilisation by the poor and working people against the US-backed attempts to bring down the government — with the failed coup in 2002, the oil industry shutdown in 2002-03 and the recall referendum in 2004 — the level of ongoing popular mobilisation has decreased significantly.
Under the whip of the counter-revolution, the oppressed demonstrated their willingness to fight — and ability to defeat — attempts by the old elite to reclaim power and eradicate the gains associated with the Bolivarian revolution.
However, with the weakening of the opposition after each defeat, combined with increased living standards for the poor, frustration with the state bureaucracy sabotaging those gains has become a bigger concern for many.
These problems have been exacerbated by a growing gap between government rhetoric and reality. Also badly undermining the revolution has been the severe weakness of the bitterly divided workers’ movement.
These factors have impeded the creation of a unified force based on the grassroots militants that would be capable of leading the deepening of the revolution in the direction of socialism — as repeatedly called for by Chavez.
In this context the endogenous right-wing has grown in strength. Many of these forces, which give lip service to the goal of socialism, publicly called for a “Yes” vote in the referendum but worked behind the scenes to discourage voting for the radical reforms that threatened their interests.
By promoting a “personality cult” around Chavez, the right has sought to silence criticism of its own actions, presenting such attacks as being against Chavez and assisting US imperialism.
The conflict between left and right within the Bolivarian movement is most clearly expressed in the struggle over the formation of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Called for by Chavez to create a political instrument to unite militants on the ground and help lead the struggle for socialism, it has become a battleground between bureaucratic sectors determined to keep control and activists from the popular movements fighting to build a mass, democratic and genuinely revolutionary party.
Such a party, if it succeeded in uniting the base with the leadership of Chavez over the heads of the bureaucrats, would be a severe blow against the right-wing forces that have maintained positions through factional power blocs.
The popular sectors have had a strong influence in the direction and discourse of the founding congress that began in January and ends in March. However, the outcome is far from decided, with the right-wing fighting hard.
A controversy has broken out over false claims by former vice-president Jorge Rodriguez (now national coordinator of the PSUV) and Diosdado Cabello (governor of Miranda, a major capitalist with strong influence in the military and identified as a key leader of the endogenous right) that National Assembly deputy Luis Tascon had been expelled from the PSUV by a unanimous vote of delegates.
No such vote occurred, and the question of Tascon’s expulsion is still being fought over. However Rodriguez and Cabello have been forced to back down, declaring Tascon has been “suspended” and will be given a right to reply after the congress has decided on the statutes and principles of the new party — a decision also never debated or voted on by delegates.
Tascon has made corruption allegations against Cabello’s brother, now head of Venezuela’s tax agency. Chavez had called for people to expose corruption.
Rodriguez and Cabello have also argued for the new party to be subordinated to the government and stated it is not necessary to include anti-capitalism as one of its principles, which have become key points of debate.
Other organisational disputes have resulted from manoeuvring by the hand-picked congress organising committee, specifically on the question of how documents to be voted on will be drafted and whether they will be presented to the PSUV ranks with enough time for discussion.
Attempts to silence dissent and bureaucratically take over the PSUV are part of the plans of the endogenous right, which aspires to “Chavismo without Chavez” — and without socialism. Such actions aim to further demoralise the popular sectors.
These divisions reflect the class struggle within the revolutionary process.
In an interview with Green Left Weekly in 2006 (“Oil, revolution and socialism”, GLW #681) Tascon argued: “there will undoubtedly be a confrontation between different Chavistas. I am sure there will be a conflict of particular interests between the left and the right. But it will not be the traditional right [who are in the opposition], but a Chavista right-wing.”
As a process that aims to overcome the subordination of the Venezuelan economy — and state — to the needs of US imperialism, broad forces have been attracted to the Bolivarian movement.
It has included those who hoped that breaking from US domination would assist economic development within a capitalist framework, right through to revolutionary socialists for whom nothing short of a thorough-going social revolution will solve the needs of the oppressed majority.
Under attack from imperialism and the local capitalist class, the revolution has increasingly radicalised, with Chavez repeatedly insisting the goal was socialism.
However, at the same time the revolution swung further left, the strength of right-wing forces has increased within much of both the pro-Chavez political parties and the notoriously corrupt state..
This contradiction is being fought out over the question of whose interests the PSUV will serve — the oppressed majority or the pro-capitalist bureaucrats? The organisation and unity of the left forces will be crucial to determining the future of the PSUV — and the revolution.
The internal and external battles are clearly linked, as revealed by the fact that discontent over problems either caused or exacerbated by the Chavista right helped cause the defeat of the constitutional reform — a victory for the US-backed opposition that has given it badly needed momentum.
Without a real “revision, rectification and relaunch” of the revolution — the “three Rs” Chavez has called for — the Bolivarian forces could face significant defeats in the elections at the end of the year. This could pave the way for an escalated opposition offensive to drive Chavez from government, via constitutional or other means.
[Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes are part of the GLW Caracas bureau, and are members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist group in Australia that is part of the Socialist Alliance.]
Saturday, 23 February 2008
Commentary- from Gary
My submission on the emissions trading scheme
I am in absolute opposition to any emissions trading scheme for New Zealand or any other country for that matter.
Carbon Trading is a scam. A disastrous distraction from real efforts to stop the most destructive force that humans have ever triggered.
This emissions trading scheme, as with other emissions trading schemes is not designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and in any case, NEVER has an emissions trading scheme resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
This scheme has been selected and designed by the New Zealand government with direction from big business specifically to distract and pacify New Zealanders and organisations trying to combat climate change.
Emissions trading is a farce as is this submissions process which is also designed to make New Zealanders think they have some sort of input into such crucial decision making processes.
Friday, 22 February 2008
Commentary: Pat OD
Soon after the Terror raids the Commissioner of Police, Howard Broad gave an interview to the Sunday Herald in an attempt to win hearts. Howard Broad tried to court popularity, by giving a media interview, on of all things, his garden. Unfortunately there is no indication of when this interview occurred, though it was probably before the Solicitor General dumped the terror charges, which Broad had been expecting to proceed with.
The interview entitled "My Secret Garden", could just have easily been entitled, "Terrorists at the bottom of my garden"Canvas editor Michelle Crawshaw, commenting on this weirdly sinister interview, felt compelled to quip, "I bet Police Commissioner Howard Broad's tomato plants would do exactly what they're told to." The Herald interview was accompanied by a photo of the Commissioner posing for the Herald photographer standing in his palatial grounds before his duck pond, (complete with arched bridge, a gazebo, spreading trees and large two story home in the background.)
In his own words Howard Broad, talked to the Herald about what he called Operation Morning Glory, He said "I went on a search-and-destroy mission for convolvulus and nasturtiums,""At the moment I'm just about to announce victory. There is one small colony of dissidents, but they're heavily entwined in some big plant that I don't know the name of. Weed killer doesn't work on convolvulus. There will be people who tell me it does, but basically it's get in there and ruthlessly hunt down and destroy them, and then take their roots to the dump. I'm passionate about getting rid of the roots of convolvulus, I have to say. Fork them out, sieve the ground, then you can nuke them with weed-killer if any fresh sprouts come up."
My question is, is Howard Broad really talking about his garden at all, or about "Operation Ate"? Given, that this is his only, at length statement since launching Operation Ate. It seems strange to me, that in his only extended interview in the print media, all he wanted to talk about, was his garden. I, and most people could be forgiven for thinking that he is talking (in a coded way) about something else entirely. Why is Howard Broad so "passionate" about his garden, when as he tells it, he only brought this property on being made Police Commissioner and is already selling it again, having bought another property nearby.
In his own words, he even admits his own doubts on his credibility. He said though he enjoyed making speeches, "I'm always apprehensive about what I'm going to say and whether, in fact, people will think I'm talking crap. The key to good public speaking is having a range of stories and the way they're constructed - it's very easy to work that stuff over in your mind when you are gardening." This sounds more like a recipe for rehearsing your "range of stories" and/or drifting into fantasy. There is no need for a reality check, while working in the garden.
In his interview on his garden, Howard Broad also revealed a hint of the close political links that funnel the "Global War on Terror" hysteria, into our country's police and security services. His favourite shirt that he admitted wearing only in the privacy of his own home and grounds is a law enforcement polo shirt, a gift from the American FBI. However in the aforementioned publicity photograph he is either not wearing this shirt or has covered up the FBI logo.
Is the Commissioner of Police really talking about his garden? Or in a sly nod to his supporters, giving a veiled outline of his motives and methods for the attack on Maori and other political activists? Just before he died, Peter Sellers, in the last movie he ever made, which was called "Being There". The lead character Chauncey Gardener is running for President of the United States. During the campaign,Chauncey Gardner (Peter Sellers) gives a media interview, about his garden. Of course everyone takes this for a metaphor for his policies for running the country.
My question is this; Is Commissioner Broad a naive incompetent bumbler like the character Chauncey Gardner? Or is Howard Broad a Machiavellian conspiracy theorist, who feels that his political views on dealing with what he calls "a small group of dissidents" i.e. "hunt them down", "destroy them", "fork them out", "nuke them" are too extreme to be stated openly. Could it be, that like the Hollow Men in Nicky Hagar's book, Howard Broad knows his public utterances must be guarded. And his views on protesters, activists, and Maori, cannot be stated openly without risking public opprobrium.
Kosovo’s breakaway will inflame 'cold war' tensions
by Chris Bambery
The US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy have rushed to recognise last Sunday’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia made by the parliament in Kosovo.
This move can only inflame ethnic tension in the region. It also represents a dangerous ratcheting up of the “new Cold War” between the West and Russia, which is Serbia’s key ally.
Serbia was the target of a Nato-led war in 1999. Some 78 days of air strikes against the former Yugoslav republic saw US, British and other Western planes targeting bridges, factories, power stations and, in one infamous attack, the main TV centre.
Bill Clinton, the US president at the time, and Tony Blair justified the war by claiming 225,000 Kosovo Albanian men had disappeared and that “genocide” was being carried out by Serbian security forces in the province.
No mass graves were ever found. Award winning journalist, Robert Fisk reported, “The number of Serbs killed in the five months since the war comes close to that of Albanians murdered by Serbs in the five months before Nato began its bombardment.”
Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo’s new prime minister, was a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the war. He has a track record of killing and torturing political rivals, and has been accused of profiteering from KLA arms deals.
Thaçi and his followers want to create a “greater Albania”, eyeing further territorial gains in Serbia and Macedonia.
They also want to remove the Serbs and other minorities from Kosovo who, from bitter experience, have little or no faith in Nato protecting them.
During the war the KLA went from being listed as a terrorist organisation by the CIA to being a key ally of the US and Nato.
While Western planes bombed Belgrade and other Serbian cities, in Kosovo the KLA provided the ground troops and Nato provided the air cover.
The West eventually secured the removal of Serbian forces from Kosovo. Nato troops took over security and the United Nations (UN) took over the administration of the province.
The KLA used the opportunity to launch pogroms against Serbians and Roma in Kosovo. This fact was admitted even by Freedom House, an institution funded by US corporations and government departments.
“Since international forces moved into Kosovo in mid-1999, a campaign of reverse ethnic cleansing has been taking place,” it wrote in 2002.
“More than 250,000 Serbs, Roma, Bosniacs, Croats, Turks and Jews have been forced to flee the province.”
In return for withdrawing its forces, Serbia secured a pledge from the UN that Kosovo would not be granted independence.
That undertaking has now been broken by the decision of the US and its allies to recognise Kosovo.
The Albanian population makes up the overwhelming majority in Kosovo, and it is undeniable that they suffered discrimination under Serbian rule.
But the Nato war on Serbia was not motivated by Western humanitarian concerns for Kosovo’s Albanians.
As Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to the Balkans, has admitted, the war was about “the credibility of Nato”. The US wanted to show the world that it could use its military power to impose its will.
Now some 16,000 Nato troops remain on the ground while the UN plans to hand over administration of the province to the European Union.
Bosnia, another former Yugoslav republic, remains under Nato control, run effectively as a Western colony.
When Yugoslavia fell apart in the 1990s, former Communist rulers attempted to channel popular discontent in a nationalist direction. This fuelled rivalries that quickly exploded into war and ethnic cleansing.
The former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in general are home to a complex mixture of different groups. Historically any attempt to carve out a state for one of these groups has led to ethnic cleansing.
That is why the left in the region has championed a socialist federation of the Balkans based on equality and justice for all.
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Castro, 81, said in a statement to the country that he would not seek a new presidential term when the National Assembly meets on February 24.
"To my dear compatriots, who gave me the immense honor in recent days of electing me a member of parliament ... I communicate to you that I will not aspire to or accept -- I repeat not aspire to or accept -- the positions of President of Council of State and Commander in Chief," Castro said in the statement published on the Web site of the Communist Party's Granma newspaper.
The National Assembly or legislature is expected to nominate his brother and designated successor, 76, as president in place of Castro, who has not appeared in public for almost 19 months after being stricken by an undisclosed illness.
His retirement drew the curtain on a political career that spanned theand survived U.S. enmity, CIA assassination attempts and the demise of Soviet Communism.
A leader famous for his long speeches delivered in his green military fatigues, Castro is admired in the Third World for standing up to the United States but considered by his opponents a tyrant who suppressed freedom.
His illness and departure from's helm have raised doubts about the future of the Western Hemisphere's only communist state.
The bearded leader who took power in an armed uprising against a U.S.-backed dictator in 1959 had temporarily ceded power to his younger brother after he underwent emergency surgery to stop intestinal bleeding in mid-2006.
Castro has only been seen in pictures since then, looking gaunt and frail, though his health improved enough a year ago to allow him to keep in the public mind writing reams of articles published by Cuba's state press.
Castro could remain politically influential as first secretary of the ruling Communist Party and elder statesman.
Raul Castro, Cuba's long-standing defense minister, has run the country since July 31, 2006 as acting president. He has raised expectations of economic reforms to improve the daily lot of Cubans, but has yet to deliver.
Commentary: Pat O Dea
Conservative politicians, local and National, are figuratively tearing
their hair and rending their garments in impotent rage over graffiti.
Whether we love or hate graffiti. In my opinion the visceral hatred
from the "the powers that be" to graffiti is centered on two things;
1/ Protection of property rights, (which is a serious concern to
those who actually have property, a decreasing minority in NZ)
2/ The monopoly of all means of public expression by the privileged.
The taggers, with their incomprehensible, inarticulate, messy and
destructive petty vandalism, have a message for us all to read, if we
The message writ large and often ugly, is one of alienation, anger,
boredom, societal breakdown and increasing inequality and lack of
resources at the bottom of society.
This is a message, that more privileged members of our increasingly
stratified society would like to see suppressed at all costs.
(Like the builders of the potemptkin towns of medieval Russia they want
to project the facade of a decent all inclusive society.)
What are the choices?
Suppression or engagement?.
More and Harsher punitive laws, greater and more aggressive enforcement
and repression. (Which I believe as well as being expensive will be
futile.) Or Engagement with the taggers.
The so called Labour Government, automatically rushes to extremism and
harsh repression, with out considering any other alternatives,
One alternative could be to try and bring taggers and their sub-culture
into the open, let's try and encourage and harness these creative
urges. This could involve government sponsored lessons in art, and
creative expression, with competitions and recognition of the talented
daring and creative.
The creation of public spaces to be made available where tagging is
acceptable. Suitably specialist structures could incorporate a challenge for city
planners and architects.
To begin with a large public wall, in the most public space possible,
(not tucked away in some remote spot as conservative councils might
agree to.) Should be built 50 cubits long and 10 cubits high. (the
height being necessary to challenge the more inventive and daring taggers.)
Architects at university should be challenged by their lecturers to
design specialist multi functional structures for this purpose.
Lots of other outlets for these young people's creative urges could be
explored and properly funded.
Who knows? a new type of acceptable People's Baroque city decoration,
complete with giant multicoloured balloon letters might result.
That art training and engagement with the tagging culture try to
encourage a taggers code of conduct, were the defacing of home owners
private property comes to be seen as dishonorable and beneath the
contempt of their tagging stars and peers.
I remember all the millions of dollars given by this labour government
to the rich America's Cup contestants for their priviledged pastime.
Come to a peaceful protest organised to show solidarity with
the people whose homes were raided this morning by police, and the 3 men arrested and facing firearms charges.
Please bring banners, placards, noise makers etc.
12pm AOTEA SQUARE SAT 23RD FEBRUARY 2008
STOP THE RAIDS!
TELL EVERYONE PLEASE! This action by Police must not continue. Leave Tuhoe alone!
Silence = Consent
Chris Trotter in his column in the Sunday Star Times (February 3) detailed a list of things he thought had alienated the left and Labour's "working class base".
Trotter's list mentioned the war in Afghanistan, genetic engineering, the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the anti-smacking legislation.
However, Trotter's list has one very glaring omission.
By not mentioning last year's paramilitary actions targeting Maori and Environmental activists, Chris Trotter is guilty of ignoring an elephant in the living room.
In his ongoing silence on this issue, Chris Trotter is only continuing the open support he gave to these extreme attacks before the terror charges spectacularly failed.
From the start, Chris Trotter was a strident and vocal supporter of the 'Terror Raids'. From his prominent pulpit in the media, this self described "leftist" abandoned the principle of Habeas Corpus in favour of condemnation by media.
But the evidence of any terrorist activity was not forthcoming. Chris Trotter has refused to say if he still supports these unjust and brutal attacks on Maori and Leftist activists.
However, Chris Trotter's silence is an answer in itself.
As the old German saying goes; "Keine Antwort is auch eine Antwort." the rough translation being: No answer is also an answer. Meaning "Silence gives Consent".
In his blindness on this issue, Chris Trotter in the same article wondered why talk-back critics of Helen Clark mention her severe style of hair and clothing. What he is not admitting that body language and looks often speak to people. And that Helen Clark's strict and often harsh look, allied with her government's recent brutal actions, are very unsettling to a lot of people at an emotional level.
No doubt the image make over experts will try and soften Helen Clark's appearance for the upcoming election. But the damage to her and Labour's image is, unfortunately for them, probably irreparable.
El Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda envía un saludo solidario a los delegados participando en el congreso fundacional del Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV).
Este congreso es un evento muy significativo para el movimiento socialista mundial. Los delegados que se reúnen aquí para discutir sobre políticas socialistas representan un verdadero movimiento de masas que ya ha logrado importantes avances en el camino hacia el socialismo venezolano.
En los últimos anos hemos estado observando con un gran entusiasmo e interés el proceso revolucionario venezolano. Es nuestra opinión que su lucha sirve como un ejemplo y lección para los socialistas de todo el mundo.
El Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda quisiera tomar la oportunidad de este congreso fundacional de PSUV para presentar nuestras ideas sobre cómo podemos avanzar de manera colectiva en la lucha hacia un mundo socialista y de paz.
Una nueva gran internacional socialista
La revolución bolivariana está encendiendo el espíritu de rebelión y esperanza de los pueblos de todo el mundo. Millones de personas están hablando seriamente sobre el socialismo, actuando para hacerlo un realidad, y la creencia que si es posible lograr “el socialismo del siglo 21” se esta fortaleciendo.
Por lo tanto, el Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda esta de la opinión que la revolución venezolana y, en términos mas generales, los levantamientos en América Latina, están produciendo las bases materiales esenciales para una nueva gran internacional socialista; una que incluye las fuerzas socialistas de cada continente del mundo.
Recientemente, Presidente Hugo Chávez propuso una nueva internacional de partidos socialistas y de izquierda en América Latina y el Caribe. Un foro internacional fue planteado para el 2008.
¿Que podría lograr una internacional socialista de que propone Chávez?
Una internacional socialista que une el ejemplo inspiradora de la revolución venezolana con socialistas en otros países tendría una importante autoridad moral y político en los ojos de millones de personas. Podría ofrecer un verdadero liderazgo y coordinación para la lucha global en contra la pobreza, destrucción ecológica y la guerra.
La articulación de los socialistas no sectarios del mundo en una nueva internacional facilitaría importantes discusiones políticos sobre estrategias y tácticas globales. Estas discusiones no se quedaran solamente al nivel teórico, sí no estarían vinculadas a un movimiento vibrante y lleno de vida, y tendría un impacto y consecuencia reales al nivel mundial.
Un programa global por un mundo mejor
Para el Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda, la formación de una gran internacional socialista necesariamente iría acompañado por la construcción de un amplio movimiento de la izquierda mundial.
En muchos países del mundo existen redes, coaliciones y partidos de la izquierda amplia, que han sido estableciendo para enfrentar los imperialistas y los partidos políticos que lo representan.
Un tema central para muchas de estas iniciativas de la izquierda amplia es teniendo una estrategia común; la importancia vital de presentar un programa de demandas generales y específicos al movimiento en general. Tal demandas incluyen: la salud y educación gratuita, la nacionalización de la riqueza y su redistribución in pro de los pueblos, medidas para proteger el medio ambiente, los derechos laborales, los derechos de los pueblos indígena, etcétera.
Estas demandas en pro de los derechos humanos pueden movilizar al pueblo, articulándolos en un una potencial fuerza poderoso de cambio social. Ésta es una estrategia esencial para llevar adelante el movimiento después de años de ataques neoliberales y las consecuencias de las graves derrotas enfrentado por los trabajadores y los pueblos.
La revolución venezolana ha avanzado por que ha planteado al pueblo metas, que son inspiradores, pero al mismo tiempo obtenibles, y que han movilizado millones de personas. A través de este proceso, la lucha se ha profundizado cada vez más hacia metas socialistas.
El Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda cree que la estrategia de construcción de una izquierda amplia que se esta implementado en diferentes países podría se complementado y mejorado con un programa mundial de la izquierda amplia.
Es decir, un programa global para un mundo mejor, promovido por el PSUV y fundado en los derechos de todos los ser humanos a un vida digna, la prosperidad y la paz, apasionaría y unificaría la lucha internacional.
Un programa mundial que atravesé con las organizaciones y partidos de izquierda en todos los continentes sería una poderosa fuerza para el cambio social. En esta época del barbarismo capitalista, una estrategia global ambicioso es esencial.
Un Comité Editorial Internacional
El PSUV, con el apoyo de otros partidos y grupos socialistas internacionales, podría jugar un papel clave en articulando una nueva gran internacional socialista; un foro internacional de socialistas y la izquierda radical de América Latina y el Caribe en 2008 sería un paso en esta dirección.
Otro paso que quisiera proponer el Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda es la conformación urgente de un Comité Editorial Internacional, para facilitar una discusión internacional multilingüe sobre el significado global de la revolución venezolana.
Podría tomar varias formas: un sitio de web internacional, una revista internacional y otras publicaciones para el intercambio.
La tarea del Comité Editorial Internacional sería analizar, inspirar y activar.
Un Comité Editorial Internacional, que tendría que incluir compañeros del PSUV, hará posible más discusión y cooperación entre socialistas a nivel internacional. Podría ser un instrumento que ayude a dar vida a una nueva internacional socialista.
Quisiéramos que los delgados al congreso fundacional del PSUV tomen en consideración esta propuesta del Partido Obrero Socialista - Nueva Zelanda.
Deseamos que el congreso sea un éxito total y esperamos con anticipación los resultados y decisiones democráticas del congreso. Los miembros del PSUV deberían sentirse seguro que los obstáculos en el camino al socialismo pueden ser superados.
El Comité Central del Partido Obrero Socialista Nueva Zelanda
Communication to the PSUV founding conference from Socialist Worker-New Zealand
Solidarity greetings from Socialist Worker-New Zealand to delegates taking part in the founding conference of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Your conference is an extremely significant event for the world socialist movement. Delegates coming together at this conference to discuss socialist politics represent a truly mass movement that is well underway to achieving socialism in Venezuela.
Over the last few years we have been observing with great interest and excitement the revolutionary process in Venezuela. It is our opinion that your struggle holds many lessons for the world’s socialists.
Socialist Worker-New Zealand would like to take the opportunity of the PSUV’s founding conference to present our thoughts on how we can collectively advance the struggle towards a world socialist peace.
A new mass socialist international
The Bolivarian Revolution is igniting the spirit of rebellion and hope in grassroots people all over the world. Socialism is being seriously talked about and acted upon by millions of people, who are coming to believe that “socialism for the 21st century” is achievable in their lifetimes.
Therefore, it is Socialist Worker-New Zealand’s belief that the Venezuelan revolution and the wider Latin American uprisings are providing the essential material foundations for a new mass socialist international, one that includes socialist forces on every continent.
Recently, President Hugo Chavez proposed a new International of socialist parties and the left for Latin America and the Caribbean. An international forum is being planned for 2008.
What could a new socialist international, of the type that Chavez is proposing, achieve?
A socialist international that links the inspiring example of the Venezuelan revolution with socialists 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.
The coming together of the world’s non-sectarian socialists in a new international would facilitate important political discussions on global strategy and tactics. These discussions would not be academic, but would be connected to a vibrant and living movement, and would thus have real world consequences and impact.
A global programme for a living world
For Socialist Worker-New Zealand the path to forming a new mass socialist international would necessarily go hand-in-hand with building a global broad left movement.
In many countries around the world broad left networks, coalitions and parties are being established to challenge the corporate imperialists and the political parties that represent them.
Central to many of these 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 for our human rights 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.
The Venezuelan revolution itself has advanced by 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.
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, if promoted by a new socialist international that includes the PSUV, would electrify and unite the international struggle.
A global programme that intersects with left formations and parties on every continent would be a powerful force for social change. In this present epoch of capitalist barbarism such a bold global strategy is desperately needed.
An International Editorial Committee
The PSUV, supported by other international socialist groups and parties, can play the key role in bringing about a new mass socialist international. An international forum of socialists and the radical left from Latin America and Caribbean in 2008 will be a step in this process.
Another step that Socialist Worker-New Zealand would like to put forward is for the urgent formation of an International Editorial Committee, to facilitate a multi-language international discussion on the global significance of the Venezuelan revolution.
This could take multiple forms: an international website, an international activist’s journal, and other mass outreach publications.
The task of the International Editorial Committee would be to analyze, inspire and activise.
An International Editorial Committee, which would have to include comrades from the PSUV, would enable greater international discussion and co-operation between socialists. It could be an element that helps bring about the creation of new socialist international
We would like delegates at the founding conference of the PSUV to consider this proposal from Socialist Worker-New Zealand.
We wish every success to the conference and look forward to its democratically decided outcomes. Members of the PSUV should be confident that the obstacles to achieving socialism can be overcome.
The central committee of Socialist Worker-New Zealand
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Contradictions and Tensions in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Process
February 6th 2008, by James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.comCarmen Pulido quietly sits on a crowded public bus in Mérida, Venezuela. The bus overflows with impeccably dressed students who tend to their tightly gelled hair and top-of-the-line clothing as they head to class on University Avenue. The bus driver's favorite Reggaetón songs blast through the breeze on this bright day in the Andes Mountains. Out the tinted window Pulido gazes upon row after row of glossy posters of ultra-skinny, mostly lighter-skinned beauty pageant contestants who are half-wearing lingerie and pointing their limbs in all directions. Alternating with the posters are beer ads portraying excited, ordinary-looking men holding bottles at waist level pointed towards the sky, surrounded by everything except women's heads. Pulido studies audio-visual media in the prestigious University of the Andes, but her destination this afternoon is not the classroom. Instead, she plants her feet on the six-lane Avenue of the Americas where she and three hundred others, mostly supporters of President Hugo Chávez, block traffic with linked arms and angrily chanting voices. Overhead, a pedestrian overpass is plastered with the "revolutionary" municipal government's message, "Mérida awaits you." Surrounding the words are seductive portraits of the beauty pageant contestants, the logos of giant commercial retail corporations and luxury hotels, and a matador boasting triumphantly over a dying bull. The annual International Sun Festival has once again swept through Mérida, a city just south of the oil powerhouse Lake Maracaibo where rural agricultural quaintness rubs shoulders with bustling, high tech, petroleum-richness. The festival's controversial "Girlfriend of the Sun" beauty pageant, bullfights, and massive commercial promotion have re-ignited internal dialogues among supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution over the types of cultural and material progress to which Venezuelan socialism should aspire. Mérida's mayor, Carlos León, compromised with protesters this year by using festival funds to put on three days of flamenco dancing activities and assured that the police kept the protesters safe as they exercised their rights. But he claims the yearly activities must continue because they are part of regional tradition, art, and culture. Meanwhile, León appears on billboards sporting a bright red shirt and raising his left fist in the air along side cut-and-pasted images of President Hugo Chávez. For Pulido and others, however, the torrent of the Sun Festival remains an assault on their values, sexual identity, and vision of what "Socialism of the 21st Century" should be. Their counterproposal hits the streets this week as they stage defiant tomas culturales, or "cultural takeovers" of institutional and public spaces, filling them with peaceful artistic expressions of what participants assert are truly socialist values. Demonstrators pass out flyers to receptive pedestrians, denouncing the bullfights as "Not Art nor Culture: TORTURE". However, participants in the protest are adamant that this is about more than animal rights. "The Sun Festival is a huge business deal that diverts public resources toward an imperialist inheritance from Spain, bullfighting, and private companies that contract with the government to promote consumerism and commerce and contaminate the environment," Pulido assails, adding that "women are submitted to total sexual exploitation." She explains her group's view that "art and culture are necessities of the People for re-creating the world they live in," avowing that social movements must fight for "the vindication of women and the vindication men through values that promote respect for life and humanity." Even though a major target of the demonstrations is the mayor, Pulido thinks this struggle is not really against the government, but instead "it is an internal struggle among the People over our conceptions of the world." Confrontations of this sort are common amidst el proceso, "the Process," which is how masses of Venezuelans proudly describe their country's current political project. More than just another name for radical Chavista politics, it has a deeper cultural meaning that seems indefinable in normal political and academic language. It legitimizes all the ambiguous changes and hopeful new relationships that go along with deconstructing a historically oppressive social order and emerging from marginality. El proceso takes shape outside of major centers such as Caracas, through the creative community work of unpretentious organizers who relentlessly tend to society minute-by-minute without needing to pledge allegiance to a vanguard, political parties, or Marxism. Mérida is a historically agricultural state that was uprooted by Venezuela's hyper-specialization in oil exportation in the latter half of the twentieth century. Dominant cash crops like coffee had already pushed out traditional farming, but even those declined in the face of burgeoning service and tourism economies glossed with oily economic and cultural appeal. Displaced workers all over Venezuela were left to migrate precariously to the fringes of the cities and grapple for leftovers. Rural Transformations Braided into the organizing philosophy of the Chávez administration is a response to this devastating history called municipalización, "municipalization". This principle of development prioritizes local decision-making processes and social change grounded in well-organized neighborhoods. In Mérida, this has spurred a fervor of municipal organizing that is most advanced in the rural countryside where it plays upon concepts of community already embedded in the local culture. In rural Mucuchíes, an hour and a half and a world away from Mérida's metropolitan area, María Vicenta Dávila's 27 years of community organizing have made municipalization like her blood type. She exalts that since an April 2006 law laid the foundation for consejos comunales ("community councils"), her community has been galvanized. The 92 councils formed in Dávila`s municipality in the past year have given birth to projects that "seemed unimaginable in the past." In the prolific community council system, the federal government delivers funds directly to neighborhoods which organize into democratic assemblies and petition resources they need to solve the local problems they understand best. The idea is to avoid state and local bureaucracy and dismiss trickle-down myths. Every council in Mucuchíes has received the full amount promised by the federal government, but collectively deciding how to use the money has not been a smooth journey. When Dávila and a group of women proposed that they launch a worm composting project, they were "demonized," Dávila recalls, "People called me crazy, especially the men, who said it was not women's work." Persuading the assembly to allocate funds required patient efforts to educate the community about the value of organic trash and the importance of women's economic and social activity. The federal government's Misión Vuelvan Caras pitched in with cooperative business management training. Now, worms are a hub of community interaction. Neighbors deliver organic waste to a team of women (and a few helpful men) who operate the composting assembly, and then regional farmers purchase the rich product as an alternative to contaminative fertilizers. In the process, women have developed deep bonds and a bit of economic freedom beyond their domestic life. Instead of bragging about her revolutionary eco-feminism, hard-nosed Dávila admits, "we have a long way to go... we are still learning the concept of cooperativism." Community councils in Mucuchíes also collaborate with the Misión Sustitución Rancho por Vivienda (Substitution of Shack for Home) to organize unemployed construction workers into cooperatives and link them to people in their communities who need more dignified dwellings. This was how Dávila crossed paths with Ingrid Martínez, an architect who passed up a job designing commercial banks to work in the mission. Martínez draws up plans for the new homes so they fit with the communities' budgets, environment, and skills. She emphasizes informal connections with folks in order to overcome their preconceptions about people in her position who are traditionally patronizing and punitive. She is frustrated by co-workers who will not enter the poorer areas. In her opinion, "it's not about fear; it's that we do not recognize those people as legitimate ‘clients'. We are trained by the system to think of ourselves as educated professionals working under or over others." Martínez huffs that many of her higher-ups in the mission arrogantly believe that the locals are ignorant and act as though their college degrees make them the guardians of knowledge. She walks me through a community of new adobe homes built with support from the mission. Builders on this hillside are proficient in molding mud bricks from the mountain they live on, a style Martínez was not taught in college. "The people of this neighborhood know things that this institution will never understand if it does not listen," Martínez cries. Opening spaces for new voices to be heard is something Dávila attributes partly to the Bolivarian Constitution, passed by popular referendum in 1999. She and other Mucuchíes organizers benefitted from a gender-sensitive budgeting workshop meant to fulfill the constitution's principles of gender equality. Dávila optimistically comments, "Despite strong resistance among the men," who traditionally dominate public matters, "women are organizing ourselves to be present at the assembly every Wednesday when decisions are made, to ensure that community council budgets address women's issues". As a result, some community councils have created on-site childcare facilities so parents can attend public meetings calmly. While Dávila is ecstatic about what she calls the "beautiful revolution" and its abundant improvements to people's quality of life, she puts the president in his historical place: "I was revolutionary long before Chávez." El proceso seems to transcend the president as critically engaged citizens create new values, traverse cultural boundaries, and humbly facilitate new systems of power. The new constitution and the laws which fortify it open doors, but the communities pick themselves up and walk through. Gender and Cultural Transformations Undeniably, the efficiency with which the government has shifted money and prerogative to local communities has outpaced the necessary psychological and cultural conversion. This conversion requires dedicated "work that is not seen," according to Laura Díaz, who helps communities organize local cultural events with government support. Venezuelan cultural work is amidst a stormy sea of shifting methodological tides. The federal policy of the Misión Cultura, phrased el pueblo es la cultura ("the People are culture,") supports Díaz´s vision that culture is not sequestered in museums, theatres, or imported dance companies, but rather shines from the everyday customs and sounds of local communities. At the same time, Díaz has been pushed around by classist higher-ups who refer to her as chancletuda, a slur that chides her roots in the vast, economically poor, low plains northeast of Mérida where knowledge of bourgeois art is scant. Díaz needs no university degree to philosophically diagnose her country's politics. "There is an immense concentration of power, not in Chávez but in the mass of once passive historical objects like myself demanding change, and the only manner in which it will disperse is through the creation of new historical subjects." The most challenging aspect is that "change must be internal... we must honestly criticize our own lifestyles." That is why she insists on community council autonomy, assuring that "what they do with their funds is less important than that they be protagonists of those funds." I ponder the fact that in the middle class neighborhood where I live, 90% of the community council funds were used to build an imposing, remote controlled gate at the front and back of the community, with the remaining 10% going to fund youth theater activities. The image of a pretentious, paranoid middle class neighborhood is penetrated by smiling adolescents in fluorescent costumes waltzing through the gates on stilts. Díaz's experience tells her that local communities have more potential for deep cultural change than revolutionary activist groups, many of which are male-dominated. Díaz joined the Tupamaros after being radicalized by the April 2002 coup. The Tupamaros is a decades-old organization that has taken the electoral path in recent years but not left behind its guerrilla past. Laura found that when things got intense, she was converted into a servant of food, coffee, and moral support for the "completely machista" Tupamaros. The Tupamaros' black and white, territorial worldview is the reason Díaz finally left them. She tells me they posit themselves as the "moral reserve of the revolution", as opposed to other Chavistas who are corrupt. With this rationale, they domineeringly confiscate public spaces from potential allies they deem ideologically impure. Díaz thinks things are not so simple; el proceso takes many forms within every group, every person. She imagines that "those public spaces will be revolutionary only when communities peacefully occupy them, and collectively organize them into educational facilities and public cafeterias." Perhaps the Tupamaros, like the America's Cup, reflect social systems based on domination. Everybody must haughtily compete for higher status in some form, sexual if not economical or political. Díaz poetically describes her role in all of this: "I am pueblo and I am of the institutions, not one or the other. I am both at once." It is like she exists within a melee of social forces and does not identify with any one in particular, but traverses all of them. It is ironic but also promising that a rather militant Tupamaro man introduced the urbanization called Santa Elena to the Misión Madres del Barrio (Mothers of the Neighborhood Mission). Anyhow, residents Maribel Dávila and her adolescent daughter Elimar have since organized 20 Santa Elena mothers in situations of abuse, extreme poverty, and isolation to receive the benefits of the mission. The first phase will provide 80% of the minimum wage, and the second will go beyond this wages-for-housework concept by funding local micro-enterprises led by the women. The committee's funds are managed by their community council, which has been stifled by general apathy and power struggles. Thus, women with new hope for economic inclusion have emerged from social isolation, propelled into the grittiness of communal organizing. The mission has encouraged one mother to believe that "we too are capable of growing, producing, and constructing sovereignty". Dávila expresses confidence that this is all part of a hopeful process. "Beautiful things are happening in Venezuela," she smiles and takes a drag of her cigarette, "little by little". But it is clear that serious obstacles remain even within these hopeful new paradigms of community work. The experience of Angélica Gómez in the cultural center of rural Tabay is demonstrative. Gómez and her co-workers had a revolutionary organizing philosophy. Instead of working on museums and beauty pageants, they trudged up and down mountain streets for two months crafting a registry of local theatrical and musical artists. These artists were defined as "common people who practice artistic expression, with or without formal training." Once the thousands of registrations were collected, locals were hired to give piano lessons to middle-aged mothers, drum lessons to young fusion rock bands, and mount puppet shows in elementary schools about recycling. Gómez even set up an after-school workshop for adolescents to practice writing lyrics to hip-hop and Reggaetón songs, become conscious of the sexism in mainstream hits, and then record themselves in the community radio up the road. This innovative project was on a roll until Gómez pushed limits by organizing tertulias. These women-only "get-togethers" in quaint, local settings had the intention of creating safe, healing spaces where trustful relationships could be built among neighbors who are victims of domestic violence and domestic isolation. Putting an end to women's separation was not the ultimate goal of the tertulias, but a temporary tactic. Men were invited by Gómez to lend support by preparing pamphlets and local resources for participants, and assist with logistics. Even so, Municipal Culture Director Hector Arriaga (who had scraped by as a kid-friendly street puppeteer for years before being promoted as a cultural worker by the Bolivarian government) became "visibly uncomfortable and threatened" that women were organizing without men, Gómez recalls. Advocating that the revolution requires teamwork, Arriaga crashed the tertulias with lengthy, overbearing discourses on what he said was a "balanced" approach to women's rights, threatening to withhold funding if Gómez objected. When Gómez and her co-worker Salomé García refused to stamp "for a culture of community and gender equality" along with Arriaga's official signature on institutional correspondences, they were abruptly informed that their jobs had become part-time, one working mornings and the other afternoons. Arriaga claimed the local legislative council had reprimanded him and threatened to cut his budget because "a director should not have the privilege of two secretaries," never mind that the women's jobs were not secretarial. Gómez and García grieved, having been divided and conquered by someone who was simultaneously benefiting from patriarchy and the government`s new empowering philosophy of culture. Like many Venezuelans, they ask, what are the values of "Socialism of the 21st Century"? Maybe the state coordinator of the Misión Sucre (a free higher education mission) in Mérida, Oscar Araque, knows the answer. "We must un-learn the anti-human values of the past, so we can re-learn... how to co-learn," he quips. Or maybe not. In my own distasteful experience volunteering for Araque, I have found that his sincere efforts at innovative educational strategies are frequently accompanied by the typical vices of authoritarian male-supremacist bureaucrats. Perhaps everyone involved in el proceso is inevitably on a journey through old, transforming, and new standards. Everyday people are spliced as they carry out acts of ambiguous cultural renewal. They are led by a Bolivarian compass that is useful but thwarted by a bubble of decrepit past traditions. The Bolivarian Revolution is a boiling pot of newness into which Venezuela is being dipped and will emerge redefined.
Source URL: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/ Printed: February 12th 2008 License: Published under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-nd). See creativecommons.org for more information.
Sunday, 10 February 2008
By Patrick Larsen in Caracas, Venezuela
Tuesday, 05 February 2008
The Venezuelan revolution has been going on for almost ten years now. It has been an enormous source of inspiration for workers and youth all over the world. For the first time since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the idea of socialism has been discussed seriously on an international scale. Many have seen a concrete alternative to imperialism in the Venezuelan revolution, which has given hope and confidence that a socialist world is possible.
It is in this context that all socialists should be watching Venezuela with great interest, where the new socialist party, the PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela - United Socialist Party of Venezuela), has entered a two month congress period.
The idea of forming the PSUV was originally put forward by president Hugo Chávez in a speech on December 15, 2006, barely two weeks after the overwhelming victory in the presidential elections, where 63% voted in favour of Chávez' political project. In the speech at the December 15 meeting, Chávez suggested that the PSUV should be formed to unite all revolutionary forces into one party and that the pace of the revolution towards the building of Socialism be accelerated.
The party should not be a mere continuation of the old corrupt political parties, but a party with genuine discussions and rank-and-file-democracy. At the same time he made it clear that what he wanted was not a copy of the old Stalinist party scheme, because it had led to an "unnatural deviation" of Lenin's original Bolshevik party.
As we have explained in other articles recent events in Venezuela have confirmed that the revolution - after 10 years of struggle - has not been finished. There are serious problems with economic sabotage against the revolution, which has led to shortages of basic food products. This has been combined with the beginnings of tiredness amongst some layers of the masses who are frustrated with the long speeches about socialism and revolution without any clear action or concrete measures for the implementation of socialism being adopted.
All this was the main reason why Chávez and the Bolivarian movement lost the Constitutional referendum on December 2, 2007. The result did not show any big advance for the opposition (they only managed to increase their vote by 200,000 after a huge campaign). However, nearly 3 million who had voted for Chávez in December 2006 abstained in the Constitutional referendum. These 3 million did not go over to the opposition, but to abstention. They have obviously not become counter-revolutionaries, but are tired of words and slogans about socialism and want clear, decisive action.
The PSUV and the masses
It is against this background that we must understand the building of the PSUV. After the victory of December 2006 and throughout the year 2007, the masses have been striving to radicalise the revolution and materialise what Chávez has called revolución dentro de la revolución ("Revolution within the revolution").
By this, they understand an internal struggle inside the movement, that is to say an end to corruption and bureaucracy. Many of the politicians in the movement are not revolutionaries at all, but reformists who argue that the revolution must "slow down" its pace or make some kind of pact with the opposition. The masses have - correctly - seen this as a capitulation to the oligarchy and imperialism and thus as a betrayal of the revolution.
When Chávez first proposed the founding of the PSUV more than one year ago, he appealed to the masses by explaining, "you know the people in the communities, we must not allow thieves, corrupt people, drunkards in". "This party", he said, "will be the most democratic party in the history of Venezuela, there will be discussions, and the genuine leaders will rise from the rank and file" and he added "enough appointments from above".
As Marxists we understand that the masses in Venezuela see the big lines in Chávez' speeches, take what they perceive as the main message and try to transform it into action. In this case, it was the idea of the PSUV as a tool to complete the revolution and destroy the bureaucracy that gripped the minds of the masses - and this idea corresponded very well to the aspirations of the masses and the reality that they see every day.
This - and this alone - can explain why the masses received the call for the PSUV with such a level of enthusiasm; in the course of 8 weeks from April-May of last year, 5.6 million registered themselves to apply for membership of the PSUV.
There are 1.4 million unskilled workers, 500,000 skilled workers, 750,000 service sector workers, 180,000 administrative and office workers, adding up to a total of 3 million workers who have registered for the PSUV. Also registered are 1.2 million housewives, which makes the PSUV the largest women's organisation in Venezuela and probably the largest in the world. This is unprecedented.
In some areas, such as the Alto Apure, a peasant region organised by the FNCEZ (Ezequiel Zamora National Peasants Front), more people registered to join the party than had actually voted for Chávez in December! The reason for this was a conscious campaign on the part of the FNCEZ appealing to every man, woman and child in the area to join the PSUV. The leaders of the FNCEZ commented: "in 1998 we also joined the MVR, but we were not organised and the bureaucracy took control, now we are joining the PSUV and we are organised to prevent that".
The founding congress of the PSUV
On Saturday, January 12, the founding congress of the PSUV was opened. Approximately 1600 delegates were present from all over the country. The congress had previously been planned for September last year, but was postponed for January due to the constitutional referendum in December.
The congress is set to last two months and culminate at the beginning of March. The themes which are up for discussion are all of crucial importance for the future of the Venezuelan revolution: The PSUV "Declaration of Principles", the programme, the ideological foundation of the party, its statutes and its electoral strategy. All this will be debated and voted upon in the congress.
The almost 1600 delegates have been elected from below; in each of the over 20,000 battalions, a vocero (spokesman) was elected. These have then joined with 10 other voceros to elect one delegate per 10 battalions. All in all, 1.4 million people showed up for the elections of voceros in the 20,000 battalions.
By now, the congress has already had two plenary sessions. One in Charallave, south of Caracas and the other in the capital of the Lara region, Barquisimieto. Between the meetings, the delegates are supposed to go home to their home regions and discuss and meet with the delegates from the other battalions, in order to transmit the discussions of the congress and debate them with the rank and file.
If we look on the one hand at Chávez' opening speech and on the other hand at the statements that some delegates have expressed in the firsts days of the congress, it is obvious that the fight for socialism and the struggle against bureaucracy are widely recognized problems; Thus, one could read the following in Ultimas Noticias on January 20:
"Nelson Becerra, a delegate for Táchira, said that they would make a proposal to the plenary to include the struggle against corruption in the Declaration of Principles. It is fundamental that mechanisms are created so that the party can exercise control", he said. Jose Ezequiel Ortega, from Portuguesa, expressed similar concerns. "We want the party to be really socialist, and to contribute to putting an end to the corruption that still exists within the revolution".
The issue was raised by a series of delegates. Miguel Montes, from Vargas, pointed out that the struggle against corruption must be amongst the priorities for the organisation, but also the internal purge of the party that is being created.
He said that "a real change in the method of building the party" is needed. "The rank and file must be listened to and we must kick out those who conspired against socialism, and made us lose the reform referendum".
Roberto Gonzalez from Zula, indicated that they will propose a review of the track record of the delegates "because the rightwing is also present here".
Planned economy or market-economy?
The draft of the "Declaration of principles" and the draft programme that has been circulated for discussion by the promoting committee, led by ex-vice president, Jorge Rodríguez, have both been translated into English and can be read here.
Both texts reflect accurately some of the contradictions that we have seen up to now, both in the speeches of Chávez and in the policies of the Venezuelan government as a whole. In the first paragraphs of the programme, it clearly states that the goal is socialism and that this can only come about as an international revolution:
"The Latin American and Caribbean people obtain unity and national and social emancipation, and together with the people of all the world we have buried capitalism in order to open the door to a new era in the history of humanity."
In part 4 of the programme, which deals with property forms, it states that that PSUV suggests a transitional process towards the building of a "democratically planned and controlled economy" which is "capable of ending alienated labour and satisfying all the necessities of the masses." In order to accomplish this, the programme proposes two concrete measures: the prohibition of monopolies and the monopolists of the means of labour and prohibition of the latifundio, that is to say the dominance of the big landowners in the countryside. All these are very good measures that Marxists will support whole-heartedly.
However, there are also some formulations that are ambiguous and open for interpretation. Thus, in the same chapter about property, we read that the PSUV fights for:
"A society with property models that privileges public, indirect and direct social, communal, citizens' and collective property, as well as mixed systems, respecting private property that is of public utility or general interest and which is subjected to contributions, charges, restrictions and obligations."
What kind of private property is "of public utility or general interest", is a bit unclear. What is within this criteria and who decides it? Obviously, Marxists do not advocate the expropriation of ALL private property. We would never take away the small possessions of individuals, as for example individuals who own two refrigerators or two cars. This was part of the anti-communist campaign based scare tactics and fear that the opposition launched for the constitutional referendum on December 2.
What Marxists fight for is the expropriation of the oligarchy, that is, of the capitalists that own the big factories, the banks, the food distribution chains, plus a radical land reform that destroys the rule of the big landowners in the countryside.
The draft programme is open for various interpretations. Its content can be interpreted in two ways; either a "mixed economy", where most industries are under private ownership which are accompanied by some elements of common ownership (this is what led to a disaster in Nicaragua) or it can be interpreted as a justification for a fundamental break with the capitalist mode of production.
It will be exciting to follow the proceedings of the discussions of the PSUV programme in the coming weeks. However, it is important to emphasise that the concrete implementation of the programme will be far more important than its formulation. Many times Chávez has said this or that thing, but his words have not been put into practice. The point is that it is the class struggle and the very development of the revolution in Venezuela that will decide the destiny of PSUV.
A rebel against bureaucracy?
In relation to the PSUV, the question of struggling against bureaucracy is also of vital importance. This struggle cannot be seen as something isolated from the general political battle between reformist and revolutionary ideas in the PSUV. Most of those workers and youth who have joined the PSUV have done so with very clear objectives in mind: to stop the economic sabotage, the shortage of basic food products, stop all corruption in the state apparatus, abolish unemployment, poverty, homelessness, etc.
A serious end to bureaucracy can therefore not come about if a clear political alternative is being put forward and which shows in practice how a socialist democracy can be build from below.
In a statement on January 28, Jorge Rodríguez, as part of the promoting committee of the PSUV, declared that the electoral strategy would also be discussed during the congress period of the party. In his weekly TV-programme, Aló Presidente, on January 20, Chávez said that the members of the PSUV in the different regions of the country should investigate whether the different Bolivarian mayors and governors had started their electoral campaign prematurely, and that these candidates ought to be elected by the PSUV rank and file.
This can be one of the central fields of battle between reformists and revolutionaries in the next couple of months. The regional and local elections are scheduled for August. It is a public secret in Venezuela that a big amount of those governors and mayors, who in words swear loyalty to the revolution and socialism, in practice are carrying out a pro-capitalist policies, making local agreements with the opposition and opposing all attempts on the part of the workers, peasants and youth to change society.
This is not only true of the most well-known examples, such as the governor of the Aragua-region, Didalco Bolivar from PODEMOS, who originally was elected as a supporter of the revolution, but who sent in the police against the workers of Sanitarios Maracay and advocated a NO in the recent recall-referendum. It is also true of other, lesser known examples throughout the country. Such is the case in the eastern city, Ciudad Bolivar, where mayor, Lenín Figueroa has betrayed the struggle of the poor neighbourhoods for an end to price rises for the public transport.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. The chavista masses will see the PSUV congress - and the coming months up to the elections in August - as a good opportunity to demand candidates who genuinely represent the interests of the masses and who are loyal to the revolution and socialism.
Sectarianism and Marxism
On the left, internationally and in Venezuela, there has been a lot of debate about the attitude of socialists towards the PSUV (and to the revolutionary process in general). A number of groups and organizations have advocated an extremely sectarian approach and denounced the PSUV as a "multi-class" and even "authoritarian" project and have refused to join, simply because Chávez was the founder and because the party is linked to the Bolivarian movement of which he is the leader.
This attitude has been supported by a group inside the UNT, around Orlando Chirino, a Venezuelan trade-union leader, who calls himself a Trotskyist. Orlando Chirino even went so far as to recommend "a spoilt vote" in the constitutional referendum of December 2 and thus assisted the right-wing in winning a small victory. He has also chosen to go out in the bourgeois press and denounce the Chávez government in very hostile terms, such as for example in the semi-fascist right-wing paper Tal-Cual, which is led by the coup-supporter Teodor Petkoff. His record also includes speaking on the same platform as Froilán Barrios of the CTV (the right-wing opposition trade union that was part of the coup against Chávez in 2002).
This happened in April. But just a few months afterwards - in July 2007 - Chirino appeared as a speaker at a meeting of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. This is an organization named after Ebert, who was a right-wing social-democrat, Chancellor of the Weimar-republic, and who used the army to suppress the Spartakist uprising of 1919. Thus, he was directly responsible for the assassinations of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and the slaughtering of the German revolution. One should think that this says everything about the unctioning and aims of this organization. But at the same time, it is a fact that they work under the influence of the German Social Democratic Party and has links with the CIA (see here and here).
All these actions on the part of the Chirino-tendency of the UNT, and those sectarian groups in Europe that support him, are a disgrace. These people have become so blinded by their hatred for Chávez, that they are no longer capable of distinguishing between revolution and counter-revolution. Their actions do not serve the cause of revolution and socialism, but discredit the name of Marxism and Trotskyism. These people are not Trotskyists - on the contrary, by their actions, they are helping the counter-revolution and the rightwing.
All this has also led these sectarians to call for the forming of "a new workers' party", as a direct rival to the PSUV. These policies will only cut them completely off from the hundreds of thousands of workers and youth who are trying to use the PSUV as a vehicle for radicalising the revolution.
Genuine Marxists are never afraid of working within a broad mass movement. As Ted Grant, a Marxist theoretician, used to say; "outside the organised workers' movement there is nothing". This is even truer for Venezuela. If Marxists stay outside the PSUV, we will give the bureaucrats and reformists a blank cheque to destroy the PSUV from within and prevent it from becoming a real vehicle of revolution.
That is also why the CMR - Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria - the Venezuelan section of the IMT (International Marxist Tendency) choose to join PSUV from the beginning and work for the party to adopt a Marxist programme. In the internal struggles inside PSUV we will join forces with the tens of thousands of revolutionary workers, youth, poor peasants and small shop-keepers who are seeking for a final struggle against bureaucracy and for socialism to be materialized.
The tasks of the working class
The most important thing for the PSUV will not be the congress in and of itself, although this can be the scene of a battle between reformists and revolutionaries. More important will be how the PSUV, as a party, intervenes in the coming events and what policies it will adopt in practice.
How will the party tackle the widespread economic sabotage of the bosses? Will it propose expropriations of the food industry? Or will it try to make some kind of agreement with the opposition? How will the PSUV respond to the coming aggressions of imperialism and the oligarchy against the revolution? How will the PSUV rank and file, organised in the Socialist battalions, react to the appeal for a direct election of the candidates for communal and regional elections in August?
All these questions are remain to be answered. This is a unique opportunity that should be seized with both hands.
The decisive factor will be if the working class intervenes in the PSUV with a clear socialist programme. The Venezuelan workers have shown time and again that they are the only ones who can save the revolution from disaster, as they did during the bosses' lockout of 2002/2003, where they stopped the economic sabotage by means of factory occupations and workers' management in the oil industry. The working class is thus the only class that can lead the revolution to victory and fight effectively against bureaucracy and corruption.
Unfortunately, the internal bureaucratic fights inside the UNT trade union confederation has led to the complete paralysis of that organisation. In this, both wings - the Marcela Máspero wing and that of Orlando Chirino - played a miserable role. Instead of focusing on the central task of extending the factory occupation movement and the building of a clear socialist programme, a sectarian power-struggle about elections in the union emerged and the second congress of the UNT in May 2006 was effectively dissolved. In reality, the UNT has been paralysed ever since. It hasn't played the role it should have, although it is still a point of reference for many workers throughout Venezuela.
Meanwhile, a number of workers in different factories have united in FRETECO (The Revolutionary Front of Workers in Occupied Factories), which is a front of occupied and worker-managed factories. This front was started in February 2006 by workers of Inveval (a factory under workers' control) and now counts more than 15 associated plants as members. FRETECO had its biggest gathering on Saturday, 20 January when 80 workers and guests gathered to discuss how the movement of factory occupations and workers' control should proceed.
This is precisely what is necessary in the PSUV - that the working class intervenes with a revolutionary socialist programme with concrete slogans; for workers' control in industry, expropriation and nationalisation of the biggest companies and the banks, for a radical land reform, abolition of the latifundio, etc.
A new offensive on part of the working class would seriously put the question of nationalisations on the agenda in the PSUV. All the conditions for this are ripe. In fact, a new wave of factory occupations could pave the way for the liquidation of capitalism in Venezuela. This is what the Marxists organised in the Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria are fighting for.