Wednesday, March 13, 2013

With Chavez gone, the vultures want back in.

Venezuela extreme poverty rates. Source
by Richard Mellor

The latest Bloomberg Business Week has a piece on Hugo Chavez, more accurately on his failures as they see it. He never completed his “Bolivarian revolution” that Business Week refers to as a “vaguely defined utopia.”. 
The problem now this respected journal of the 1% claims, is whether or not “Chávez’s supporters can continue to afford Chavismo.”  The problem that the coupon clippers have with Chavez’ policies is that he “..bolstered his popularity among Venezuela’s 9 million poor by subsidizing food and housing, expanding education and health care, and reducing poverty
Yep, that’ll make you popular for sure. Not with Business Week and its readers, but with the vast majority of workers and particularly the poor and in this part of the world, the indigenous population.  US capitalism considers Latin America its own back yard and Chavez wasn’t playing by the rules.
Chávez’s critics blamed him for the nationalization of more than 1,000 companies or their assets, as well as currency controls and price caps, which they said discouraged investment…” Business Week write, and this “..created food shortages, and fueled inflation. Above all, his critics condemned Chávez’s use of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state oil company, as a source of nearly unlimited funds for social programs."
The nerve of Chavez; he used the nation’s oil wealth to feed, cloth, educate and provide millions of people with security. This is the vague utopia that BW must be referring to.  Business Week doesn’t explain how these policies created fuel shortages but I might hazard a guess that it has something to do with the economic war US capitalism launched against Venezuela and Chavez in retaliation for his refusal to give oil away to the US energy giants. Venezuela sits on the largest “proven” oil reserves in the world and before Chavez the US oil giants had a great deal for oil at bargain basement prices in partnership with a Venezuelan ruling elite that took their cut in the plunder of the country’s resources.
Exxon and ConocoPhillips are still trying to get money out of Venezuela for nationalizing what they refer to as “their” fields with “inadequate compensation.”   According to BW, oil production is down since the nationalization as Venezuela lacks some of the technology and human capital to maintain the fields. This is also part of US capitalism’s war against the nation for its opposition to the market and refusal to hand over billions in oil revenue to international investors.  If the next president were to stop funding social programs through the state and introduce market friendly policies it will be able to “recruit outside partners to help repair the fields. Says” BW. 

US capitalism and global investors have not simply waged an economic war against Venezuela for the nation’s transgressions, there is a global strike of human capital as the energy companies have somewhat of a monopoly on the possession the human capital (engineers, geologists, scientists etc.) necessary for oil production.  With the rise of China and Russian capitalism this dynamic has changed somewhat one would think but the technique and know-how necessary for oil production is still mainly the possession of the established conglomerates.

There is not much detail in Business Week’s article about the incredible gains made since Chavez came to power, the object is to focus on the problems, problems generated by the response of the owners of capital to the policies of the Chavez government.  Venezuela sends 97, 000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba that sends doctors to Venezuelan clinics in return.  This irks the US capitalist class.  It’s staggering when one reflects that for more than 50 years, the US government has waged a violent economic war against the tiny Island of Cuba while it has supported numerous murderous undemocratic regimes throughout the world. Regimes like the Saudi’s, Mobutu, the Shah of Iran etc.  Cuba supplies doctors to impoverished overseas countries and the US supplies attack helicopters.
Gini Coefficient
Business week and its clients have high hopes, A market-friendly president would probably cut the costly subsidies many Venezuelans enjoy for gasoline and food, seriously trim the ranks of the bloated civil service…”  all in the hope of attracting capital and foreign investment.   Workers in the US should think about this: In a somewhat similar way, we are being demonized much like Chavez is by the mouthpieces of US capitalism like BW and the mass media. Public services are attacked for the same reason and privatization is presented as the alternative.  In auto, it was the autoworkers the 1% blamed for the crisis in that industry, generations of families that helped make this country a global power.  The guilty always blames their victims.

The mass media refers to the public US workforce and sector as “bloated” just as it does with regards to Venezuela. The venom and demonization of Chavez, Cuba US trade unions or any force that undermines the market, either physically or ideologically is capitalism defending itself. Capitalism was dragged form the abyss by state/public money and cannot abide anything that undermines the view that the market has the answer to all things.  It is this that draws capitalism’s ire, not a lack of democracy or dictators.  The US has supported or installed some of the most ruthless undemocratic regimes on the planet. We have had numerous posts on Venezuela and the Chavez legacy.  We posted a balanced assessment on this blog a few days ago from South Africa’s Democratic Left Front:
Given the potent anti-capitalist symbolism that Chavez represented, it is not a surprise that capitalists, the imperialist United States of America (USA) and Europe, neo-liberals, post-liberation political elites and mainstream media including the ANC-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) produced false propaganda that Chavez was a dictator, a populist and so on. Strange dictator he was: since he was first democratically elected in 1998, there have been 17 elections and referenda, all of whom were declared free and fair by international bodies, and most of which he won. He was elected with 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, defeated a coup in April 2002 on the back of mass power, received over 7 million votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote in October 2012. Even the former US President Jimmy Carter conceded that “of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” Beyond the state and formal democratic institutions, Chavez also opened the path to the emergence of nascent participatory democracy institutions such as communal councils with competencies to plan and allocate resources, solidarity and communal enterprises, cooperatives and financing institutions like the Women’s Development Bank.
Chavez's problem and shortcomings laid elsewhere. No social transformation or a transition to socialism can ever depend on one person or through a compromised political infrastructure in a self-declared socialist state or even in a self-proclaimed socialist party. Any such change crucially depends on the self-organised and critically conscious class power of the vast majority of poor and working people. The still-to-be achieved socialist alternative that Chavez envisioned was clearly different from Stalinism, as he grappled with how it must be based on democracy and popular participation, and how this socialist alternative must learn from the self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ but ultimately disastrous and failed statist experiments of the 20th century. Read more here.
One of the “experts” BW quotes in its article is Peter Hakim.  And who might he be? Hakim worked for the Ford Foundation in New York and Latin America (in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru). He has been a member of the board at the World Bank, Council on Competitiveness, Inter-American Development Bank.  Having enemies like these is a good thing.
The death of Chavez is a loss for workers throughout the world.

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