Criticizing Venezuela from the outside By William Bowles

14 May, 2010

Now ‘real’ lefties are probably going to call me a wuss, you know the kind of thing, ‘defend the revolution no matter what’, or label me a counter-revolutionary, but hey, it’s not for me to tell Venezuela how to do things whilst I’m sitting semi-comfortably here in London.

It’s real dilemma, after all we lefties want to see the Bolivarian revolution succeed just as much as the Venezuelan people do. So let’s hear what a Venezuelan comrade has to say on the subject of Chavez, PSUV and the state:

“Comrade Juan Contreras, an activist in the popular movement in the January 23 neighborhood and elected alternate deputy candidate by Circuit 1, was the next speaker. Contreras said that candidates of the apparatus had a tremendous advantage against the candidates of the popular movement and the fact that there were so many candidates had been a source of strength for the bureaucracy.

“He expressed deep concern over the fact that there had been an attempt to make the popular movement fit within the framework of the state. He reminded all those present that it was the actual movement of the masses that had saved the Revolution on April 11, 12 and 13, 2002 and again during the oil lockout. Nobody had called them out, but it was the spontaneous movement from below that overthrew the coup and rescued the government of the Revolution. According to Juan Contreras, this showed the great wisdom of the people.” — ‘Venezuela: The PSUV rank and file criticize the internal elections’, Vheadlines, 13 May, 2010

And this is just one of many quotes from the article that come from grassroots activists, the people who made the Bolivarian revolution possible and it’s not a new phenomenon, rule from the top, lack of democracy seems to permeate the left no matter where or when.

It’s a difficult and paradoxical problem for the left, especially those of us who live in capitalist ‘democracies’, knowing as we do that imperialism doesn’t want see the Venezuelan experiment succeed and has already fomented coups and mounted a massive propaganda campaign against Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.

No doubt there are some within the PSUV as well as the state apparatus who are taking advantage of their situation and even no doubt, working to undermine the revolution, this is par for the course.

But we can’t blame it all on counter-revolutionaries, there is the fundamental problem with a revolution led by a personality and one who (rightly) feels under attack from all sides. I’m not sure who said it but any state is a form of repression, and the more power the state has the greater the repression. History as well as contemporary events bear this out.

It comes down to whether Venezuela has a socialist democracy or not, never mind a socialist economy. And herein lies the rub as they say: Venezuela is not a socialist society, pronouncements from above not withstanding.

The criticism voiced in the piece quoted above illustrates the dilemma for the left in trying to move society forward; it carries with it all the accumulated errors and misgivings of the past. Good ol’ Karl Marx summed it up perfectly:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” — Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The real problem for the left is the issue of democracy, socialist democracy, without it everything else is meaningless, and it’s a problem that the ‘left’ in the UK—and indeed in all capitalist ‘democracies’—still have to deal with, one of the reasons I’m loathe to take on the job of criticizing lefties elsewhere, who are at least actually in the middle trying to build socialism rather than just talk, talk, talk about it.

At the end of the day we need to defend the Venezuelan experiment but let’s leave it to the Venezuelans to sort out the contradictions and failures whilst we celebrate their successes.

Does the same go for Iran?

Iran is even more of a dilemma for the Western left, a country that insists on hanging young people for being members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) a group the Iranian government calls terrorists. And there is no doubt that PJAK has engaged in armed actions against the Iranian state and no doubt, for its own reasons is supported by the West.

“The present leader of the organisation is Haji Ahmadi. According to the Washington Times, half the members of PJAK are women, many of them still in their teens, and one of the female members of the leadership council is Gulistan Dugan, a psychology graduate from the University of Tehran. This is due primarily to the fact that PJAK is strongly supportive of women’s rights. PJAK believes that women must have a strong role in government and must be on an equal level with men in leadership positions.” — PJAK, Wikipedia.

Not something the Mullahs are to likely to be in favour of. And in all likelihood PJAK is supported by the US and Israel:

“On April 18, 2006, US Congressman, Dennis Kucinich sent a letter to US president George W. Bush in which he expressed his judgment that the US is likely to be supporting and coordinating PJAK, since PJAK operates and is based in Iraqi territory, which is under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

“In November 2006, journalist Seymour Hersh writing in The New Yorker, supported this claim, stating that the US military and the Israelis are giving the group equipment, training, and targeting information in order to create internal pressures in Iran.

“This is denied officially by both the US and PJAK. In an interview with Slate magazine in June 2006, when PJAK spokesman Ihsan Warya was paraphrased as stating that he “nevertheless points out that PJAK really does wish it were an agent of the United States, and that [PJAK is] disappointed that Washington hasn’t made contact.” The Slate article continues stating that the PJAK wishes to be supported by and work with the United States in overthrowing the government of Iran in a similar way to the US eventually cooperated with Kurdish organisations in Iraq in overthrowing the government of Iraq during the most recent Iraq war.” — ibid

It’s a case of the devil you do, the devil you don’t, and surely this is the point of demonizing Iran in the West. What lefty worth his or her salt wants to support a theocratic, mysogonist and capitalist state? A state that slaughtered thousands of lefties back in 1979.

On the other hand since when has the West given a toss about women’s rights or rights in general unless it suits their own agenda? So actually there are two issues here that should not be conflated but which conveniently the West does (evil Mullahs with atomic weapons) and this surely is the real point and illustrates the fact that events and societies develop unevenly and often in contradictory ways.

The job therefore for the Western left is clear: to try and change the policies of our governments viz a vis Iran and let the Iranian people deal with their repressive and undemocratic government, a job made doubly difficult by Western interference where opponents of the government are conveniently labeled as agents of a foreign power (where have I heard this before?).

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