[News] Venezuela: Revolution in the Revolution or is it just cultural?

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Mon Nov 8 11:33:03 EST 2004

Venezuela: Revolution in the Revolution or is it just cultural?


VHeadline.com guest commentarist Richard Smith writes: With the regional 
elections over, and the map of Venezuela predominantly painted red, with 
the Bolivarian government controlling 90% of states and 80% of mayoralties 
up and down the country, the time has come to make the “great leap forward” 
so as to implant, and then consolidate, the necessary structural changes in 
Venezuelan society.

The phrase “great leap forward” was first coined by Mao Tse Tung in 1965 as 
a harbinger of the Cultural Revolution in the PRC, when “bourgeois 
revisionists and reformers” were weeded out of the Chinese state apparatus, 
schools, universities and public institutions so as to cleanse society and 
rehabilitate these ideological misfits into the ranks of the ongoing 
Chinese revolution.

It is no coincidence that Chavez Frias has used the selfsame expression 
(“gran salto adelante” in Spanish) to describe what he sees as the next 
step in the peaceful, democratic and participative Bolivarian revolution, 
currently underway in Venezuela.

Failing this ... as expressed by Chavez himself .. could mean that the 
revolutionary process could degenerate and turn out to be no more than a 
set of reforms in the context of the prevailing Venezuelan State -- a far 
cry from the sea change in society and state which Venezuela badly needs, 
if more than 500 years of endemic poverty is to be vanquished by 2021, by 
giving “power to the poor.”

In fact, Chavez said he would rather die, than see this happen!

Chavez has called upon the Mayors of the revolution to combat 
“inefficiency, bad bureaucracy and corruption” so as to combat the counter 
revolutionary elements still controlling a great part of the state. These 
elements, mainly life-long members of AD and Copei, have used their 
positions and power to sabotage the social missions, by holding up payments 
to the participants and thus making life difficult for them and their 
families, with the strategy of placing the blame on Chavez himself and his 

Venezuelan labor laws make it impossible to fire these saboteurs.

The rallying call to the Bolivarian Mayors to operate on a local level 
working with the common people is a logical step to take, so that the 
impetus of change comes as a groundswell from the base, and is not imposed 
from air-conditioned offices in Caracas or other State capitals ... where 
understanding and getting to grips with local problems is limited to an 
objective, intellectual level, rather than identifying with and empathizing 
with the people, as well as by living and sharing their problems in common 

This lack of empathy with local officials and candidates is one of the 
major causes of the high abstention rate in the Regional Elections of 
almost 55% nationwide and is not a good sign for the country as a whole.

Whereas the people voted massively in the August 15 Presidential recall 
referendum ... since they identified with, or totally rejected Chavez ... 
the October 31 regional elections were frankly a disappointment, especially 
when gauged in the context of the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 which 
emphasizes “participative” rather then “representative” democracy.
    * Voter participation was relatively poor even though historically, 
abstention has been over 50% in Venezuelan regional elections since they 
were first introduced some 15 years ago.

It also begs the question as to how “politically conscious” the Venezuelan 
people have become since 1998.

Yes, they identify with Chavez and, therefore, it is certain that many 
people voted for candidates of the MVR and the coalition parties as a 
further endorsement of the leader.

But do they identify with the lower echelons of the revolutionary 
leadership? Or was it primarily the hard core of government supporters who 
voted on October 31?

If the coordination of society is to be achieved by commencing at municipal 
level with the Mayors ... working up through the State Governors, to 
Ministers and finally to the Executive Branch itself ... then the hard work 
has to start at base level, where the abstaining voters are, so that they 
will participate in society and will be less likely to abstain in the future.

Chavez has made it abundantly clear that the responsibility with the 
communities -- i.e. the great mass of the population -- starts at municipal 
level, and thus Mayors as municipal leaders have the task of educating and 
encouraging the people to participate in the development and the 
“revolutionizing” of society for the common good, and thus defeat 
individualistic attitudes so prevalent in Venezuela.

“People power and participation” not only includes running Local Planning & 
Health Committees, but also Social Control & Audits of the missions, health 
services and how the municipal budget is being allocated and spent -- this 
has to be run by the local population itself so as to eek out ingrained 
corruption and the trafficking of influences.

In other words, municipal power lies in the hands of the population, and 
not exclusively in the hands of the mayor as the legal representative.
    * The town halls have to be turned into a meeting place for the people 
to express themselves and participate in ALL the decisions taken which 
affect their lives and communities.

This is an advance over and above the concept of FIDES, where 20% of the 
municipal budget is granted by law to projects presented by communities, so 
as to encourage people participation. FIDES is an excellent concept ... but 
it is more of a reform than a revolutionary idea, since the decision to 
approve projects and make funds available is still taken by bureaucrats and 
not by the communities themselves.

All the pieces of the revolutionary puzzle are still waiting to be put 
together, and the edges of the puzzle start at community level with the 
Mayor.  What does the Mayor have to do?  This is simple but rare, even 
nowadays in Venezuela. The Mayor has to be in the street, walk up and down 
steep alleyways in the popular districts, converse with the population, 
understand how they feel and appreciate their problems -- all this with the 
objective of encouraging active, and even better, PROACTIVE participation 
of the young and old, of men and women so that they automatically include 
themselves in society. The Mayor has to implement projects within the 
Popular Economy, so as to generate employment, educate about cooperatives, 
organize seminars on history, health, even Venezuela 
 the list is 

At the end of the day, the Mayor should live in the communities with the 
people, as the doctors of the Barrio Adentro (Into the Neighborhood) 
primary health mission. The local councilors should also be doing the same 
... instead of looking for business opportunities using their influences 
and contacts.

This is the type cultural change that is needed in Venezuela, where 
organized, mass people power comes to the fore led and encouraged by the 
Mayors, the councilors and their electoral teams, which already exist in 
the from of the UBE’s -- Units of Electoral Battle, soon to be designated 
as Units of Endogenous Battle or Development, now that the elections are 
    * Such massive participation and by extension Social Control & Audits 
will be the spark for Revolution in the Revolution, or major cultural 
change based on collective values and benefits, rather then the “I’m 
alright Jack” attitude.

With this sort of social movement of “massive people power” becoming the 
norm, it would not take long to combat “inefficiency, bad bureaucracy and 
corruption” as Chavez has demanded.

Mayors and councilors, as public servants, get out of your offices and into 
the street. Take active part in the historical process underway in 
Venezuela. In this way, you will also defeat the tendency to abstain, and 
virtually reassure your own reelection as you become a real leader, in the 
street, not in your office in the town hall; you will gain credibility and 
become the most important local politician for the communities for which 
you ... and the people as a whole ... are responsible.

Ideologically speaking, you will be following the precepts of the 1999 
Bolivarian Constitution of “participative and protagonistic democracy.”

If you don’t, and continue as if the country is till in the IV Republic -- 
well, you stand a good chance of being revoked from office in 2006 
(half-way through your mandate), as the President will certainly call for 
parasites and corrupt officials to be revoked if they have not performed 
between now and October 31, 2006.

With Social Control & Auditing, these traitors will easily be detected.

In a nutshell ... Revolution in the Revolution is massive people 
participation and power.

Sounds idealistic?

Some would say so ... but even the cynics cannot deny that the Venezuelan 
people did not need the political parties or any local politicians to lead 
them when they demonstrated their capabilities on April 12 and 13, 2002.

  Richard Smith is based in La Victoria (Aragua).  He was born 1950 in 
Wolverhampton (UK), and obtained a Masters Degree from the University of 
London and the University of Marburg-an-der-Lahn (Germany) forming close 
contacts with Latin America and more especially Venezuela since 1977.  An 
expert in international marketing, he is a regular contributor to the 
specialized press directed at the leather industry (Spanish and English), 
represents a global fair group in Latin America and recently launched the 
cyber magazine Leather Press.  One of his main concerns are the 
establishment of some form of “social justice” in Latin America since:  “As 
I grew up in a post WWII society where free health care, education, jobs 
and social security were taken for granted, it came as an ugly surprise to 
discover that these elements do not exist for 90% of Latin Americans. Thus, 
social organization at the base is essential if the dispossessed are ever 
to ease their way put of the poverty trap.”  Richard Smith may be contacted 
at email <mailto:richardsmith98 at hotmail.com>richardsmith98 at hotmail.com

<http://www.vheadline.com/smith>More VHeadline.com commentaries by Richard 

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