Hugo Chavez, his Welsh Trotskyite Advisor, and the Speeding up of the Revolution

2 posts

Niccolo and Donkey
Chavez and the good old days of Marxist misadventure

The Globe and Mail

Neil Reynolds

December 13, 2010

Alan Woods, the Welsh Trotskyist adviser to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – better known in Caracas, The Economist has said, than in Cardiff – has advised his friend that Venezuela’s socialist revolution is in trouble and can be saved only by the prompt and complete nationalization of the country’s “bankers, landlords and capitalists.” Mr. Chavez himself appears, tentatively, to agree. If he takes Mr. Woods’s advice, Venezuela will almost certainly become something akin to a Soviet-bloc state within the next two years.

Anyone nostalgic for the good old days of Marxist misadventure can capture the dialectic ambience of it once again, in real time, by reading the anachronistic rhetoric that Mr. Woods, a prolific author, passes off as Marxist analysis. Venezuela isn’t Czarist Russia – but echoes of the Bolshevist past can still send a shiver down your spine. Why did Mr. Chavez lose more than a million votes (compared with his support in a referendum last year) in Venezuela’s September election? What message does it deliver? In a critique last month (Where Is the Venezuelan Revolution Going?), Mr. Woods answers with the classic clarity of proletarian insurgencies of days gone by.

“What the elections showed is a growing discontent and impatience among the masses with the slow pace of the Revolution. The bourgeoisie, which still controls key points in the Venezuelan economy, is sabotaging production … and closing factories. In order to defend the Revolution, it is necessary to take serious measures against the landlords and capitalists, to end their power once and for all.”

Once and for all: It has a certain ring. The Venezuelan economy has not yet been Sovietized, just parts of it – among other industries, oil, telecommunications, electricity, steel, cement, glass-making, rice-processing, supermarkets and a few banks. But the language of the country has. No need to ask Mr. Woods what he means when he references “bourgeois democracy.” It’s fraudulent democracy, the kind that must be replaced once and for all – by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In a postelection speech in September, Mr. Chavez drew a line, though, on the expropriation of all private property. “Does anyone think that we will nationalize the butcher shops, the grocery shops, the shops where people buy shoes?” he asked. This was bourgeois damage control: Mr. Chavez has now released mom-and-pop businesses – an important part of capitalist economies – from the threat of government takeover. “There are not,” Mr. Chavez asserted, “four or five million oligarchs in Venezuela.”

In his response, Mr. Woods sounds disappointed – but cuts Mr. Chavez some slack. Mr. Chavez is quite right, he says, to exempt small businesses – “down to the last barber shop” – from expropriation. The elimination of private property, he says, was “a Soviet caricature” of Marxism.

He quotes Marx himself: “Do you mean the property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant? …There is no need to abolish that. The development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it.” A very small private sector, Mr. Woods says, “could and should be allowed.”

For the rest, Mr. Woods is more insistent: No capitalist – no oligarch – can be tolerated. The takeover of the rest of Venezuela’s banks and the rest of its industries, he says, will enable the government to grant “cheap credit” to middle-class voters and to sell goods to consumers at cheap prices – ensuring that the masses return to Mr. Chavez’s side for the 2012 presidential election. Blithely rewriting history, Mr. Woods says: “The superiority of a nationalized planned economy was demonstrated by the colossal successes of the USSR.”

Energized by his electoral setback in September, Mr. Chavez announced in October the nationalization of 200,000 hectares of farmland. In November, he announced the nationalization of another 500,000 hectares, taking state ownership of Venezuelan farmland – power to the peasants – to 2.5 million hectares.

A decade ago, Mr. Chavez won elections with 80 per cent of the vote. In September’s election, he won a majority of seats (97 of 165) with 48 per cent of the vote. Mr. Chavez must soon confront, once and for all, the country’s counter-revolutionary capitalist forces. Mr. Woods, the Trotskyist, advises permanent revolution. “One side must win, and the other side must lose.” In this, he is absolutely right.
Niccolo and Donkey
Here's Wikipedia on Alan Woods :