[News] Popular power in Latin America
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 13 13:24:44 EDT 2009
Popular power in Latin America -- Inventing in order to not make errors
July 12th 2009, by Marta Harnecker
1. Eighteen years have passed since April 1991,
when I had the privilege of being invited to the
VIII Gallega Week of Philosophy [in Spain],
organised every year by the Aula Castelao de
Filosofía. It was a difficult time for left
forces inLatin America and the world. It was less
than two years after the Berlin Wll had
collapsed-which meant the beginning of the
disintegration of socialism in Eastern Europe-and
the Soviet Union was falling into the abyss,
which ended with its disappearance at the end of
that year. Deprived of its necessary rearguard,
the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua was
defeated in the February 1990 elections, and the
guerrilla movements of Central Americawere forced to demobilise.
2. It was a difficult situation for the Latin
American left-which had learnt much during the
previous decade. If anyone of you had listened to
my speech back then, you will remember that I
referred to the errors of the left in the 1960s
and 1970s, and the lessons learnt during the 1980s.
3. I want to mention here only two factors which
enormously influenced the maturation of the left:
the pedagogical vision of Brazilian Paulo Freire,
who gave impetus to a significant movement of
popular education in a number of our countries,
that clashed with the classical concept of the
left parties of that era who tended to consider
themselves the bearers of the truth; and feminist
ideas that placed an emphasis on respect for
differences and rejection of authoritarianism.
4. Today the situation is very different, and
that's what I want to refer to in this talk.
II. Latin America today
Latin America -- pioneer in the rejection of neoliberalism
5. Latin America was the first region where
neoliberal policies were imposed. Chile, my
country, served as a testing ground before the
government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
applied them in the United Kingdom. But it was
also the first region in the world where a
process of rejection of these policies emerged; a
rejection of policies which had only served to
increase poverty, deepen social inequalities,
destroy the environment and weaken the working
class and popular movements in general.
6. It was here that the first revolutionary wave
occurred after the fall of socialism in Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union. After more than two
decades of suffering, a new hope began to emerge.
The emergence of left governments
7. We saw the emergence of left governments, more
or less committed to the struggle of the people.
Let's recall that in 1998, when Chavez triumphed
in Venezuela, this country was a solitary island
in the middle of a sea of neoliberalism across
the whole continent. But, soon after, in 2000,
Ricardo Lagos triumphed in Chile; in 2002, Luis
Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil; in 2003, Nestor
Kirchner in Argentina; in 2005, Tabare Vazquez in
Uruguay; in 2006, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Evo
Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador,
Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Cristina Fernandez
in Argentina; in 2008, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay;
and recently, in March 2009, Mauricio Funes in El Salvador.
Candidates from left parties
8. For the first time in the history of Latin
America-and with the crisis of the neoliberal
model as a backdrop - candidates from left
parties were able to win elections by raising the
anti-neoliberal flag in the greater part of the countries of the region.
Popular movements: the great protagonists
Emerge out of the crisis of the legitimacy of neoliberalism
9. It wasn't the political parties that were in
the vanguard of the fight against neoliberalism,
but on the contrary, it was the popular
movements. These movements emerged out of the
framework of the crisis of legitimacy of the
neoliberal model and its political institutions,
and originated from the dynamics present in their
community or local organisation.
10. They were very pluralistic movements, where
components of liberation theology, revolutionary
nationalism, Marxism, indigenism and anarchism coexisted.
Old and new social movements
11. In this resistance struggle, together with
the old movements, especially the peasants and
indigenous movements, new social movements arose,
such as those in Bolivia fighting against the
privatisation of water (the water war) and for
the recuperation of control over gas (the gas
war); the piqueteros in Argentina, made up of
small business owners, workers, unemployed,
professionals, pensioners, etc.; indebted Mexican
farmers; Chilean high-school students, referred
to as "the penguins"; ecological movements; the
movement of impoverished workers; the movements
against neoliberal globalisation. The middle
classes also appeared on the political scene:
health workers in El Salvador, the caceroleros
(saucepan protesters) in Argentina, among others.
12. The traditional workers' movement, hit hard
by the application of neoliberal economic
measures, didn't appear, except in rare
exceptions, on the front line of the political scene.
From mere resistance to questioning power
13. These movements initially rejected politics
and politicians, but as they advanced in the
process of struggle, they shifted from an
apolitical approach of mere resistance to
neoliberalism, to an increasing political
approach of questioning the established power,
reaching the point, in cases such as those of the
MAS (Movimiento Al Socialismo) in Bolivia and
Pachakutic in Ecuador, of building their own political instruments.
Neoliberalism consolidated and neoliberalism on the path to consolidation
14. With the exception of Chile, where the
neoliberal counterrevolution triumphed
completely, installing legal reforms in the
country that justified neoliberal politics, and
where the privatisation drive destroyed a large
part of the industrial sector that had been
previously nationalised by Allende, in all the
other countries, this system was unable to fully
consolidate itself, thanks to the resistance of the people.
Two paths: refoundation of neoliberalism or
advance towards an alternative project
15. Faced with this crisis of the neoliberal
model, today sharpened by the world capitalist
economic crisis, there are only two paths: or the
refoundation of neoliberalism or the advancement
towards an alternative project, based not on the
logic of profit but on a humanist and
solidarity-based logic that enables a process of
economic development in our region that favours
the great national majorities, and not the elites.
Correlation of forces in Latin America
16. Latin America is going through a new phase; a
new correlation of forces. The situation that
existed in 1998, when Chavez won, has radically changed.
It is possible to limit foreign interference
17. A new factor of the last ten years
(1998-2008) is the formation of a correlation of
forces in Latin America, that -as Valter Pomar
 says-allows limits to be placed on foreign
interference, helps avoid coup d'etats (against
Chavez and Evo Morales, for example) and foreign
invasions and makes policies of economic blockade
unviable, such as those that played an important
role in the right-wing strategy against the
government of Allende in Chile, and which continue to affect Cuba.
US cannot achieve its objectives
18. Although the correlation of forces continue
to be immensely favourable to the imperialist
project, there exist other signs that the US
government does not have absolute domination over
the region, such as the overwhelming failure of
the war in Iraq and its incapacity to impose the
Free Trade Agreement in Latin America (FTAA). We
also know that it has had to limit itself to
bilateral trade agreements with only some
countries. Moreover, despite its immense control
over the media, left candidates willing to oppose
US policy have triumphed throughout the entire region.
Greater independence of political processes
19. The existence of this more favourable
correlation of forces in the Latin American
subcontinent creates "better conditions for each
national process to follow its own course." A
sign of this new correlation of forces are the
meetings of Latin American and Caribbean heads of
state without the presence of the United States
and with the presence of heroic Cuba,
marginalised up until only a few months ago.
Neoliberalism loses legitimacy in Latin America
20. Furthermore, although we cannot say that the
neoliberal model has been surpassed, we can at
least say that there are very few who are willing
to defend it nowadays, because it has lost
legitimacy by demonstrating its incapacity to
resolve the principal problems of our peoples.
Structural contradictions of capitalism are more visible.
21. Additionally, it is difficult to deny that
structural contradictions exist in the current
stage of capitalist development: every day we can
see more clearly that the agriculture industry is
unsustainable, that energy use based on petroleum
is being rapidly exhausted, that natural
resources are finite, and that despite the
international hegemony of capital, it does not
have a national development project, and this
affects its hegemony at the local level.
Discrediting of bourgeois liberal democracy
22. Moreover, in our countries, there exists a
crisis of the model of bourgeois democracy; the
people no longer have confidence in this form of
government. This political system has not been
able to resolve the serious problems of our
peoples. Every day, the people are less and less
willing to accept the enormous gap between voters and the elected.
23. According to Latinobarómetro - a poll carried
out in our countries - the level of satisfaction
with democracy inLatin America in 1998, at the
time when Hugo Chavez won, was only 37% on
average, and even less in Venezuela(35%). In some
of our countries, there were people who yearn for
the dictatorships of the past because there was
more order, more efficiency back then. Up until
2007, the average level in Latin America has
remained at 37%, while in comparison, the level
for Venezuela increased to 59%. In these 9 years,
Venezuela had converted itself into the country
in Latin America with the second highest degree
of satisfaction with democracy, according to this measure.
24. There also exists a crisis of traditional
political parties. People have developed a huge
scepticism towards politics and politicians.
Advance in the level of consciousness of our people
25. This situation opens up a more favourable
perspective for the working class and for the
popular movements more generally. There is a
change in the level of consciousness of the
people, which has happened very rapidly.
26. The successive electoral victories of
candidates who have put forward anti-neoliberal
programs have signified a political victory for
our peoples. This has put on the table a debate
over alternatives to neoliberalism.
Increased military presence in the region
27. While more countries aim to break the
umbilical cord that ties them to the United
States, the Pentagon is making more effort to
strengthen its military presence in the subcontinent.
28. One expression of this is the multilateral
military exercises that are carrying out each
year with the objective of training troops in the region.
29. Moreover, they are increasing their
endeavours to create US military bases in our
countries. Overall, there are already 14 military
bases which threaten Latin America and the
Caribbean. The most well-known are: the Tres
Esquinas base, in Colombia, where a further two
exist; Iquitos, in Peru; Manta, in Ecuador;
Palmerola, in Honduras; Comalapa, in El Salvador;
Reina Beatriz, in the island of Aruba; Liberia,
in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, each day there is
more resistance to these military installations,
as is the case with the peoples of Brazil
andArgentina against the Alcantara base in
Brazil; and to prevent the Southern Command
installing a base in Misiones, in the so-called
Triple Frontier, the point where Argentina
touches with Paraguay and Brazil. We also
shouldn't forget the heroic and successful fight
of the Puerto Rican people against the US base on the island of Vieques.
30. The plan for economic and political
domination, which takes as its point of departure
the military supremacy of the United States, is
also directed at watching over and controlling
the dynamic of the popular movements of the
region, trying to prevent the emergence of
national forces which confront the policies of
domination and vassalage. Their intelligence
networks are expanding throughout our countries.
31. That is why, when Hugo Chavez demands that
the United States respect our sovereignty, he is
not inventing a problem, he is making known a
reality, and he is not alone in this fight; he is
interpreting a very deep sentiment, that is
generalised among our people. Will Obama be
capable of understanding this? And if he does
manage to understand it, will he have a
sufficient correlation of forces to allow him to
apply a policy of respect for the sovereignty of
our countries? History will tell us.
Three common characteristics of these governments
32. We said at the start that the greater part of
Latin American countries are today governed by
presidents democratically elected and supported
by left forces. These governments, in spite of
being very different from one another, have at
least three common programmatic points: the fight
for social equality, political democracy and national sovereignty.
Electoral triumphs, but less capacity to manoeuvre
33. But before analysing these governments and
seeing their potentials, I would like as to stop
for a moment and look at the limits that apply
today to those that attain the presidency of republics in our region.
The media supremacy of the opposition
34. "Today, more than ever, we must confront not
only the apparatus of political coercion of the
dominant classes but also its hegemony over
important popular sectors, its cultural hegemony
over society, the ideological subordination of
the dominated classes [...]"  
35. The influence of the media is such that it
has achieved a situation where broad popular
sectors accept without qualms the capitalist
hegemony of the process. Repression is less
necessary than previously for the reproduction of
the system. That is why the statement by Noam
Chomsky is so valid, when he maintains that
propaganda is as necessary to bourgeois democracy
as repression was to the totalitarian state. 
36. The same author has said that the reactionary
forces of the world always accept the democratic
game as long as they can "domesticate the anxious
herd," controlling the media in order to
"fabricate consensus". The imperialist power and
right-wing forces know this all too well. In all
our countries, the weapons of media bombardment
in the hands of the opposition are immensely more
powerful than those which our governments count on.
Restricted democracies: big decisions made outside of parliaments
37. But this is not all, let's recall that
democratic regimes that emerged after periods of
dictatorship in the Southern Cone of America, and
which later expanded throughout our entire
subcontinent, are what some writers have called
"restricted" or "guided democracies".
38. While the voting population has increased
enormously in our countries over the last
decades, and it is becoming harder each day to
carry out fraudulent elections, paradoxically
this has not resulted in a broadening out of the
democratic system, because the greater part of
the important decisions are not adopted by
parliaments but rather by entities that escape
its control: the large international financial
agencies (IMF, World Bank), autonomous central
banks, huge transnational corporations and
national security organisations. Today, it would
appear that the dominant groups are more willing
to tolerate the victory of left candidates,
because each day they have less real
possibilities of modifying the ruling order.
Consumerism: the credit card person
39. Another element favouring "governability" is
consumerism. The culture transmitted by the mass
media is not a culture of solidarity but a
culture which promotes consumerism. People are
not content to live in accordance with their
income, but rather live in debt and because of
this they need to maintain a stable job -
something which each day becomes scarcer - in
order to be able to cover their economic commitments.
40. At the level of the masses, they have
succeeded in converting the superfluous into a
necessity and by doing so and promoting the
purchasing of goods on credit. They have created,
as Tomas Moulian calls it, a new mechanism of domestication. 
41. This massive indebtedness not only serves to
maintain or broaden the internal market but also
operates as a device for social integration,
 like an invisible chain. It is necessary to
ensure your job and achieve goals that allow you
to move up the professional ladder in order to
achieve new opportunities for consumption: buy
your own house, car, and, more recently, sound
equipment, the latest model television.
Characteristics and correlation of forces
42. These governments referred to as being "from
the left" are very different from one another,
and for this reason there is an abundance of
classifications. Some analysts divide the
governments of Latin America into three blocs:
governments which promote free trade such as
Colombia, Mexico and the majority of Central
American governments; social democratic
governments which aim to balance liberalism with
social policies such as Chile, Brazil and
Uruguay, referred to by ex-Mexican Foreign
Minister Jorge Castañeda as the "good left"; and
anti-imperialist governments, that adopt measures
of social and economic protectionism in the face
of the US, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and
Ecuador, what Castaneda describes as the "bad
left." The US intellectual James Petras considers
these latter governments to be part of the
pragmatic left, in contrast to the sole example
of the radical left, which is the FARC
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Taking into account the correlation of forces
43. We believe that it is necessary to be careful
when classifying left governments in the region.
In order to be able to judge them by what they
do, we have to be very clear about what they
cannot do, not because of lack of willpower but
because of objective limitations. For that, we
must take as our starting point a correct
analysis of the correlation of forces-internally
and internationally-in which they are immersed,
something which the most radical left sectors
often overlook, demanding the adoption of more
drastic measures on the part of these
governments, and often using the Venezuelan
government as an example, which counts on
immensely favourable economic conditions; ones
that probably no other revolutionary process has
had. Only by analysing the correlation of forces
can we tell what these governments can and cannot do.
Correlation of forces: Chavez and Lula
44. Let's think, for example, about the
government of Luis Inacio da Silva, better known
as Lula, in Brazil. Although the candidate of the
Workers' Party in Brazil won the 2002
presidential elections with more electoral
support than even that of Chavez in 1998, one
must not forget that these results were the
product of a broad policy of alliances, which was
necessary to win in the ballot boxes, and even
more necessary to be able to govern the country.
We should remember that his party was and remains
a minority in both houses of the legislative
power and that, although the party controlled and
continues controlling an important number of
mayors and a significant number of state
governors, it is a minority in this terrain at
the national level. To that, we must add that
Brazil depends to a large extent on international
finance capital, which Venezuela, with its
enormous oil income, doesn't. Moreover, Lula does
not count on the massive support of the armed
forces which Chavez has, and who defines his
political process as a peaceful, but armed
process. That is why we agree with the statement
of Valter Pomar, who heads the international
affairs department of the Workers' Party, when he
says that "there does not exist a correlation of
forces, institutional mechanisms and an economic
situation" that could allow the Brazilian
government "to operate in a manner similar to the
Venezuelan government"  although he
recognises that the government of Lula could do
more than it is currently doing.
How to overcome these limitations
New integration of the region
45. To overcome these limitations, we must make
more relevant each day the ideas of Bolivar in
regards to the necessity of the unification of
our countries. Isolated, we will achieve very
little, united we will make them respect us and
find economic, political and cultural solutions
that each day make us less dependent on the world power blocs.
46. Furthermore, faced with this situation of
restricted democracy, it is fundamental that we
strive to modify the inherited rules of the game,
convoking constituent assemblies to elaborate new
constitutions, as the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have done.
Changing the correlation of forces
The art of politics
47. Here I want to remind us of the concept of
politics that I put forward in my book "The left
on the threshold of the 21st century: making
possible the impossible." There, I stated that
the art of politics is to make possible the
impossible, not through sheer volunteerism but by
engaging in the construction of our own forces,
that is, changing the correlation of forces in
order to allow us to make possible in the future,
what appears to be impossible today.
Constructing a social force
48. For that, we must abandon the idea that to
construct a political force we must concentrate
on winning spaces in institutions. On the
contrary, to construct political force, we must construct a social force.
49. Therefore, our governments ought to be very
clear that they need to construct a social force
and carry out national and international policies
that allow them to change the current
correlations of forces in order for them to make
possible tomorrow what appears impossible today.
Governments in dispute
50. Our governments are governments in dispute,
between forces that really want a transformation
of this society and those that believe there is
no alternative but to subordinate ourselves to
the demands of international finance capital.
These leaders have to understand that their
future will depend to a large extent on the
capacity that the popular movements have to
organise, grow and transform themselves into a
decisive pressure force that can tip the scales
in favour of the progressive forces. Only in this
way can the stated programmatic commitment be implemented.
Our people should be frontline actors
51. Left or progressive Latin American leaders
need to understand - as I think the presidents of
Venezuela and Bolivia have understood very well -
that they need an organised, politicised people
who apply pressure in order to make the process
advance and are capable of fighting the errors
and deviations that keep on arising along the
way. They have to understand that our people must
be front line actors, and not limited to the second line.
A great platform that can cohere all forces
52. One way to achieve the creation of a
favourable correlation of forces is by
elaborating a program of struggle or a platform
of accumulation for the period, that fills the
role of an instrument that can cohere together
all the social and political sectors of the
country that are willing to go beyond the
capitalist, neoliberal model. A platform of this
type will allow the deployment of a whole number
of new alliances that can help create a huge
social bloc of support for the government, and
isolate the recalcitrant opposition.
53. We must try to create spaces for the coming
together or convergence of all these sectors,
preserving the uniqueness of each social or
political actor, that allows them to take up
common tasks that strengthen the fight for the
consolidation of the alternative society that we want to construct.
A political instrument suitable for the new challenges
54. I think that in order to achieve our
objectives it is also fundamental to change the
political culture we have inherited and create or
reconstruct a political instrument suited to the
society that we want to build and that allows us
to respond to the challenges that confront us in this new century.
Origins of the errors: the Kautsky thesis
55. I recalled at the beginning of this
conference that in my intervention in 1991, I had
referred to the errors of the left from the 60s
and 70s and the lessons learnt in the 80s. All
of this was collected and systematised in my
book: "The left on the threshold of the 21st
century: Making possible the impossible," written
in 1999. Here I want to once again take up the
theme of the errors and develop some ideas of
what the political instrument should be like in
order to face the challenges of the coming century.
56. Some years later-in 2006-I arrived at the
conclusion that these errors and deviations
originated from the Leninist thesis, taken from
Kautsky, regarding the necessity of importing
theory (Marxism) into the workers' movement, in
order for them to obtain class consciousness.
 But who owns the theory, who is the bearer of
the truth? Is it the party or the party
intellectuals? What is the principal function of
the party? To train up cadre, introduce theory,
and hold cadre schools. This is where the
deviation of the enlightened vanguard, of the
party that leads, of the social movement as the
transmission belt for the party, come from.
Political instrument and revolutionary practice
57. What is missing from this picture?
Revolutionary practice. This vision doesn't take
into account the role that Marx attributes to
social practice in the formation of working class consciousness.
58. The German thinker maintains that "it is only
through experience that the masses move from the
economic to the political, through the
simultaneous modification of circumstances and
themselves. The process of consciousness-raising
is rooted in revolutionary practice. And it is
through this that the class in itself is
transformed into a class for itself." 
59. For her part, Rosa Luxemburg speaks of "the
living political school, by the fight and in the
fight."  You cannot learn everything from
pamphlets, it is necessary to carry out a process
of learning through practice.
60. The struggle not only contributes "to clarify
the minds of the workers, their way of seeing the
world, but it also transforms them internally, it
creates in them the sensation that united, with
other workers, they can transform themselves into
a force that can go on to obtain victories
against the bosses, and can go on conquering
other things. In the struggle they acquire
self-esteem, they feel more and more capable of
achieving their objectives; they transform
themselves more and more into the subjects of the
process in which they are inserted." 
61. If we take as our starting point the thesis
that revolutionary practice is essential for the
emancipation of the workers, and for the popular
movement in general, the political instrument
that we construct has to be consistent with this
thesis and we have to change our form of conceiving of politics.
Characteristics of a political instrument
thinking from the practical point of view
Taking advantage or creating situations that
allow us to learn through experience
62. Instead of putting emphasis on introducing
theory into the workers' movement, in worrying
especially about theoretical formation, we ought
to be very creative in taking advantage of or
creating situations that allow people to learn
through practice. We have to be very attentive to
the different forms of expression of social
discontent with regards to the current oppressive
system and to the initiatives and forms of
struggle that are generated from this;promoting
spaces of convergence between all the social
sectors and popular initiatives who feel affected
by the present situation and trying to discover,
together with the social movement, the spaces and
forms of confrontation which will allow this
movement to being to understand that in order to
overcome the bad things, it is essential to unite
and build a social force capable of confronting
the current system of domination.
Great respect for the popular movement
63. "If we think that the practical experience of
struggle is fundamental for raising popular
consciousness, our political instrument has to
express a great respect for the popular movement.
It has to contribute to its autonomous
development, leaving behind all attempts at
manipulation. It has to be based on the idea that
political cadres are not the only ones who have
ideas and proposals, and that, on the contrary,
the popular movement has much to offer, because
in its daily practice of struggle, it learns
lessons, discovers ways forwards, finds answers,
invents methods, that can be very enriching." 
Not military cadres but popular educators
64. The political instrument cannot be made up of
cadres with a military mentality, accustomed to
the method of "obey and command," nor by populist
demagogues who think that it is a matter of
leading a gaggle of sheep. "Political cadres,
fundamentally, have to be popular educators,
capable of harnessing all the wisdom that exists
within the people-both that which comes from its
cultural traditions and the struggle, as well as
that acquired in the daily struggle to
survive-through the fusion of this popular wisdom
with the more global knowledge that the political
organisation can contribute." 
Criteria for judging the performance of left governments
65. If we take into account the considerations
expressed previously, rather than classifying the
Latin American governments as has been done, what
we ought to do is try to judge their performance
in accordance with certain criteria, always
taking into account the correlation of forces
under which they must operate. We should not look
so much at the rhythm with which they advance
towards the objective which they have proposed
for themselves; the important thing is to
determine the direction in which the process is
headed, given that the rhythm will depend, to a
great extent, on how they overcome the obstacles
which they find in their path.
66. I think that if we analyse the attitude these
governments have on issues such as those that we
will highlight soon, we might be able to make a
more objective judgement of where these governments are heading.
Attitude to neoliberalism and capitalism in general
67. What is their attitude towards neoliberalism
and, more generally, capitalism?
68. Do they unmask the logic of capital, do they
attack it ideologically, using the state to weaken it?
69. Do they diminish the gap between the richest
and the poorest people; are they giving this last
group more access to education and health?
Attitude towards the inherited institutions
70. Do they undertake constituent processes to
change the rules of the institutional game,
knowing that the inherited neoliberal state
apparatus is a strong obstacle in advancing
towards the construction of a different society?
71. Do they make an effort to increase electoral
enrolment, taking into account that the poorest
sectors are generally not on the electoral roll?
Attitude towards economic and human development
72. Do they propose themselves the task of
satisfying human needs above that of capital growth?
73. Do they understand that human development can
not be achieved with a purely paternalistic state
that resolves problems by transforming people
into beggars, but rather that this can only be
achieved through practice and therefore encourage
the creation of spaces where people can play an active role?
Attitude to national sovereignty
74. Do they reject foreign military intervention:
military bases, humiliating treaties....?
75. Do they recuperate sovereignty over natural resources?
76. Do they advance in finding resolutions to the
problem of the media hegemony, which until now
has been in the hands of conservative forces?
77. Do they foster the recuperation of national cultural traditions?
Attitude towards the role of women
78. Do they respect and stimulate an active role for women?
Attitude towards discrimination of all types
79. Do they advance towards the elimination of
all discrimination (sex, ethnicity, religion, etc)?
Attitude towards the means of production
80. Do they continue to advance further in the
direct of social property over the means of
production and increasing active worker participation in the work place?
Attitude to popular activism
81. Do they mobilise the workers and people in
general in order to carry out certain measures
and increase their abilities and power?
82. Do they understand the necessity of an
organised, politicised people, capable of
bringing pressure to bear in order to weaken the
inherited state apparatus and in this way drive
forward the process of transformations being proposed?
83. Do they understand that our people must be
front line actors and not relegated to the second line?
84. Do they listen to and give voice to the
people? Do they understand that they can rely on
them to fight the errors and deviations that come up along the way?
85. Do they give them resources and call on them
to exercise social control over the process?
86. In summary, are they contributing to the
creation of a popular subject that is
increasingly playing a more protagonistic role
and assuming the responsibilities of government?
Advancing from the state towards the communist horizon
87. I believe that these ideas have been enriched
by the reflections on this issue made by Alvaro
Garcia Linera, the vice president of Bolivia. He
asked, how can we advance towards what he calls
the "communist horizon, taking the state as our
starting point"  if the cultural and
economic conditions that serve as a basis for
this advancement do not exist. He replies that
there are three ways of doing so: 1) stimulating
the autonomous organisation of society; 2)
broadening out the working class base and the
autonomy of the working class movement; and 3)
harnessing forms of communitarian economy. The
Bolivian politician insists that all this must be
done without trying to control the movements and
popular organisations from the state, because
"nobody can replace a society in motion." 
III. Venezuela and socialism of the 21st century
88. Have there been advanced made towards this
horizon visualised by the Bolivian Vice
President? We think that important steps have
been made, especially in Venezuela.
A different socialism
89. While Alvaro Garcia Linera speaks of the
communist horizon, Hugo Chavez talks of socialism of the 21st century.
90. In his speech at the closing ceremony of the
World Social Forum, in February 2005, in Porto
Alegre, Brazil, the Venezuelan president publicly
outlined for the first time  that his
project was to go beyond capitalism and build
socialism, although he immediately clarified that
he was not trying "to revert to state capitalism"
because if this occurred, it would fall "into the
same perversion as the Soviet Union."
91. The Bolivarian leader is very clear on the
fact that we must differentiate between the
socialism which he is proposing and Soviet
socialism. He criticises the "stalinist
deviation" of the party that "ended up being an
anti-democratic party..[...] The slogan "All
power to the soviets!" ended by transforming
itself in reality into "All power to the party!"
This explains why at the time of the fall of the
Soviet Union, the workers did not come out onto
the streets to defend it." 
92. 92. The term "socialism of the 21st century"
was coined in the search to differentiate it from
the errors and deviations of so-called real
socialism of the 20th century in the Soviet Union
and the countries of Eastern Europe. It
highlights as fundamental elements of this
socialism: "economic transformation,"
"participatory and protagonistic democracy in
politics" and "the socialist ethic. The love,
solidarity, equality among men, women, among everybody [...]" 
93. For Chavez, socialism has to be an
essentially democratic regime, adapted to each national reality.
94. It is a matter of creating a new system of
production and consumption, a system that has to
be constructed from the popular bases, "with the
participation of the communities, through
communal organisations, cooperatives,
self-management and other such methods...", "a
communal system of production and consumption."
95. The Bolivarian leader insists on the active
participation of the people, but this is nothing
new, this is part of the origins of the Bolivarian process itself.
The Bolivarian constitution and popular participation
96. The constitution approved by the Constituent
Assembly in 1999, already put an emphasis on
popular participation in public affairs, and it
was stressed that this protagonism was the
guarantee to full development, as much for the
individual as for the collective. Although there
are various articles in the Constitution that
refer to this theme, probably the most complete
is Article 62, which highlights the form in which
this development will be achieved. There it says
that the "participation of the people in forming,
carrying out and controlling the management of
public affairs is the necessary way of achieving
the involvement to ensure their complete
development, both individual and collective,"
highlighting the fact that it is "the obligation
of the state and duty of society to facilitate
the generation of the conditions most favorable
for this to be practiced."  Moreover,
Article 70 highlights other forms that allow the
people to develop "their capacities and skills":
"self management, cooperatives of all types,
democratic planning, participatory budgets at all levels of society."
97. In the area of local territorial
participation there has been an insistence on
carrying out a participatory diagnosis,
participatory budget and social auditing.
Initially, the legal figure of the Local Council
of Public Planning (CLPP) were created at the
municipal level, with institutional
representation (mayors, councillors and members
of the parish committees ) and community
representatives to carry out these tasks. It is
important to note that the representation of the
communities had more weight than the institution
(51% versus 49%), reflecting a clear political
will to stimulate the protagonism of the communities.
98. But this would have remained mere words if
suitable spaces had not been created for the
participatory processes. For this reason, his
initiative to create communal councils and later,
his proposal to create workers councils, and
student and peasant councils, to go on and form a
truly popular power, is so important.
99. One of the most revolutionary ideas of the
Bolivarian government was the push to create
communal councils, a form of autonomous
organisation from the grassroots of society.
Forerunners to the community councils
100. This initiative has its forerunner the
organisational form that enabled Chavez's
electoral triumph in the 2004 referendum, when
the opposition questioned his hold on the
presidency. At that time, the Bolivarian leader,
who did not have a political party capable of
fulfilling the demands of the process, and
knowing that it was necessary to win with a wide
margin so that nobody could doubt the results,
invented a formula of popular organisation that
allowed the commitment of all ordinary citizens
who sympathised with him to participate as
activists in the electoral process aimed at
winning the greatest possible number of votes
against the proposal raised by the sectors of the political opposition.
101. In this way, the idea emerged of creating
small nuclei of sympathisers across the length
and breadth of the country. Units were formed by
groups of 10 people, and each one of them had as
their task to work with 10 more people, carrying
out house-to-house visits, to try and convince
those families of the necessity of defeating the opposition referendum.
102. Therefore, each platoon was responsible for
working with 100 voters. If an electoral area had
for example, 2000 voters, then 20 battalions had
to be formed, that is, it was necessary to
organise 200 patrollers who divided amongst
themselves the work of convincing 2000 voters.
Chavez's idea was that every single family would be visited.
103. This original proposal allowed hundreds of
thousands of sympathisers to incorporate
themselves into a concrete political task,
independent of the existence or not of a party
leadership in the electoral area.
104. "Many people, emotionally committed to the
process, but until then inactive, had their first
organisational and political experience.
Thousands of anonymous individuals contributed
their grain of sand. So did leaders who were
capable of leaving to one side their parochial
and personal projects, in order to work very
closely with the grassroots in achieving a single
objective: that the NO would win." 
105. Thanks to this tactic, the Venezuelan
opposition suffered its third great defeat in
their attempt to put an end to the government of
President Chavez. The NO vote won by about 2
million votes, representing an enormous support
base for the revolutionary process and a factor
which influenced the further advance of the process.
The search to consolidate the advance made in the level of organisation
106. They had to look for a way to not squander
the advance made in popular organisation. In the
beginning, they thought of transforming the
electoral platoons into social platoons,
nevertheless, afterwards, they saw the necessity
of differentiating political-electoral
organisations from that of citizen participation,
and in that search, the idea of creating communal
councils emerged, a territorial organisation
never before seen in Latin America due to its
small scale: between 200-400 families in densely
populated urban zones, between 50-100 families in
rural areas, and even fewer number of families in
the isolated zones, fundamentally in the indigenous zones.
Participation in small groups
107. The idea was to encourage citizen
participation as much as possible in small groups
to facilitate the protagonism of those present,
making them feel comfortable and uninhibited.
108. This conclusion was arrived at after much
debate and the examination of successful
experiences of community organisation like the
urban land committees (CTU)-some 200 families who
are organising to fight for the registration of
ownership of land - and health committees-some
150 families who come together with the objective
of supporting doctors in the most disadvantaged communities.
109. Making an approximate calculation, in
Venezuela, which has about 26 million
inhabitants, there are about 52,000 communities,
if we understand community to mean a group of
various families who live in a specific,
geographical space, who know each other and can
easily relate, who can meet without depending on
transport and who, of course, share a common
history, use the same public services and share
similar problems, both socio-economic and urban.
110. Each one of these communities had to elect a
body that would play the role of a community
government. This body was called the communal council.
111. The communal councils are made by of
individuals elected in their respective
communities in citizens' assemblies. Venezuelan
militants refuse, with reason, to use the term
representative to describe these individuals
because of the negative connotations that this
term has acquired in the bourgeois representative
system. Candidates only approach their
communities during elections, promising "all the
gold in the world," and then, after being
elected, are never seen again. That is why they
have looked for a different term: vocero or
vocera (spokesperson), which comes from voice;
when these people lose the confidence of their
neighbours, they stop being the voice of the
community and have to and should be recalled.
112. Historically, there have been other attempts
to create a non-bourgeois alternative to the
system of political representation, where elected
representatives are not detached from their
electoral base and, on the contrary, maintain an intimate link to it.
113. This system was put into practice at the
time of the Paris Commune in 1871, during the
first years of the Russian revolution, in the
Italy of Antonio Gramsci, in Yugoslavia during
the war of national liberation and afterwards in
the period of the socialist revolution.
114. Referring to the experience of the Paris
Commune, Marx outlined the following: "The rural
communes of each district would administer their
collective affairs through an assembly of
delegates in the capital of the corresponding
district and these assemblies would in turn send
deputies to the National Assembly of Delegates in
Paris, with the understanding that all the
delegates could be recalled at any moment and
they would find themselves obligated by the
mandat imperatif' (imperial mandate) of their voters." 
115. For Marx, the Paris Commune, with its
delegate system, had great significance because
he saw in it the germ of a new state that would
replace the bourgeois state, given that it
transcended classic political representation.
116. The aim of the delegate system or of
spokespersons is to abolish the classic figure of
political representation and ensure a direct
relation between voters and the process of decision-making at all levels.
117. The personal and direct participation of
workers and citizens in the decision-making
process concerning social, communal and general
affairs is not only socially impossible,
especially if we take into consideration the size
of our huge cities, but it is also very difficult
to make a reality technically. For this reason,
the figure of the delegate or spokesperson has
arisen historically, to act as a bridge between
their respective grassroots communities
(neighbourhood, workplace and interested groups
or issues-based groups) and the bodies that
exercise government at the different levels.
Community council: the first stage of the new political system
118. In this way, a system of government, which
functions through the assembly of delegates or spokespersons, is constituted.
119. This system, although it only unites an
assembly of a selection of persons and not the
masses, can, and should be, a much more
democratic mechanism than the assembly system
(mass assemblies). In the latter, everything is
supposedly decided by direct democracy right
there in the meeting; in the first, there are
fewer participants but they bring items already
studied to propose and discuss; their
participation is much more reflexive and is much
less open to manipulation than in the huge amorphous mass assemblies.
120. This system is not only different from the
bourgeois-democratic system of political
representation but it also seeks to ensure that
the workers, the organised people, that is, the
majority of people, and not the elites, are the
one who exercise power and participate in the management of public affairs.
121. They are not given a free mandate by voters,
as occurs in the bourgeois system of
representation, instead the voters are the ones
who have to furnish guidelines; but neither do
they receive an imperative mandate: their vote
cannot be predetermined. They are not a type of
robot, who receives messages and transmits them;
instead they are responsible and creative individuals.
122. They have to be active and creative
individuals during the process, both in the
formulation of the viewpoints of the voters and
in the bonds they establish with other delegates
and in making decisions in the assemblies.
123. They have to be capable of negotiating and
conciliating. It is not uncommon in this process
for a spokesperson to be convinced that a certain
public work for another community is much more
urgent than the one their community is asking
for: for example, resolving a problem of
contamination produced by waste water instead of
painting the school in their community, and they
end up voting for such a project over their own.
However, if they want to continue being a
spokesperson, they have to return to their
community and explain and try to convince them of
the reasons why they should prioritise the others demand instead of theirs.
124. If the voters do not feel represented by
their spokespersons, or they are not convinced of
the correctness of the situation, they can and
should revoke them, because they have ceased being their voice.
Resources transferred directly to the communal councils
125. The other quite particular element of the
Venezuelan process had been the transfer of
resources from the central government directly to
the communal councils. Concerned that the money
that the state delivers to the governors and the
mayors was not reaching the communities,
President Chavez decided to set up a fund to
deliver money directly to the communities,
subject to the organisation of these into
communal councils and their presentation of a
project. Although the measure could have lent
itself to economist deviations, which occurred in
some cases, we can not deny that it had a very
positive effects. Firstly, the government gained
credibility, people saw that the promises were
being fulfilled; secondly, and most importantly,
the people began to gain confidence in
themselves, they felt listened to, they saw that
they could improve their living conditions, and
ensure that the money would last longer, with the
active participation of the community in the development of public works.
Popular power is not limited to the communal councils
126. In the beginning, they only spoke of
community councils in Venezuela, that is, of
organisations of a geographical type, but in
recent times, some have been putting forward the
proposition that these are only one of the
components of popular power, given that power
rests with the organised people, not only in the
places where they live but also in the
workplaces, study centres and also in regards to
areas of interest or issues (health, education, gender etc.)
127. It is fundamental that the people not only
be organised geographically, but also in
workplaces given that the socialist society that
we want to construct, as opposed to previous
societies, is essentially a society of workers,
where nobody will live off the work of others,
but instead everyone will contribute in one way
or another to creating and distributing social wealth.
128. In order to be heard and participate in the
decision-making process in their workplaces, the
workers should organise themselves not only to
defend their most immediate interests in their
respective companies, a fundamental function of
the trade unions, but to elevate-as Gramsci
said-their condition of simple wage earner to that of "producer."
129. As wage earners, their aim is to negotiate a
better price for the product that they can sell,
which is their labour power. As "producers", the
workers have to be able to have an opinion and
suggest ideas about the way in which society
should move forward in a more efficient and
useful manner, the direction of their factory or
of the service where they are working; but not
only that, they should be interested also in
discussing and taking initiatives so that the
products or services which they generate respond
more to the needs of the people that they are
made for. Therefore, it will be very important
that their voice is heard in discussions about
local or national plans relating to their area of work.
130. According to Gramsci, the "worker can only
conceive of himself as a producer if he considers
himself an inseparable part of the entire system
of work which is summed up in the manufactured
product; only if they experience the unity of the
industrial process that requires the
collaboration of the labourer, the qualified
worker, the administrative employer, the
engineer, the technical director." 
131. That is why, when we speak of workers'
councils we are thinking of organisations which
represent all workers in their workplace: both
the workers that directly labour on the raw
material, those who intervene by facilitating the
transport of this material to the machines,
looking after the functioning and maintenance of
these, ordering or directing the processes of
production at different levels, that is, all the
members of collective work in each centre,
whether or not they are affiliated to the trade
union in that company. The same thing should
occur with workers in a particular service: for
example workers' council in the health sector
should incorporate not only doctors but also
nurses, laboratory technicians, administration
and maintenance workers, representatives of clients, among others. 
132. But workers councils should not only be
organised in production or service companies,
especially if we are dealing with a country like
Venezuela, where there exists a large number of
workers who still work in an artisan fashion such
as fishermen, small peasants, tailors, and actual
artisans, or the huge number of self-employed
workers or who work in the informal economy,
which exists especially in the more urban zones.
All of them should organize their respective councils.
133. Lastly, there should be what we call
thematic councils: that is, those that group
together people with a certain interest or issue
of concern. For example, women's organisations,
students, youth, older people, the disabled;
groups defending the environment, against racial
discrimination and over questions of gender;
organisations which group people around issues
such as health, education, sports, culture and many others.
The communes: constructing a new political system
134. But this popular power, this system of
participation and popular direct protagonism,
cannot be limited to these experiences on a small
scale, instead they have to transcend the
community, the factory, they have to encompass
broader levels of local power, until they reach
power on a national scale; the same should occur
in the factory: as well as workers' councils
according to workshop or section, there should be
workers' councils organised by company, by industry, etc.
135. These diverse expressions of popular power
should allow for the participation of citizens in
all the processes of decision-making in all
communal and general affairs that concern human
life in society, and because of this it is
necessary to establish some form of delegation of
power that does not reproduce the limitations and
deformations that gave origins to the classical
bourgeoisie political representation system.
Direct and indirect democracy through a system of spokespersons
136. In summary, it's a matter of constituting an
original political system of popular power or of
self-government that combines direct democracy on
the small-scale with an entire system of
assemblies of spokespersons at different levels,
which should be elected, and should orientate and
control the different organs of government.
Towards a definition of the commune
137. At the first level, which is above the
communal council in this system, will be what is
called the commune, that is, "a territory in
where a variety of communities co-exist, that
share historical-cultural traditions, problems,
aspirations and a common economic vocations,
which use the same services, which have the
conditions to be self-sustainable and
self-governable and who's communities are willing
to come behind a common project constructed in a
participatory and constantly evaluated manner,
suitable to the new circumstances which are being created." 
Economic self-sustainability with a socialist orientation
138. The commune has to reach the point of being
self-sustainable. It has to achieve sufficient
funds of its own to make it less depend on
external resources and it should therefore carry
out productive activities or services in its
territories to allow it to obtain an important
part of the resources to satisfy its own necessities and defray its expenses.
139. Each commune should move in the direction of
the construction of a communal system of
production and consumption with the participation
of the communities, through the community
organisations, cooperatives, socially-owned
businesses with a socialist orientation,
processes of fair trade, and many other
innovative forms that point in the direction of
the creation of that new model of production, as
an expression of power and popular control over production.
140. Obviously, one of the key structural axes of
the commune will be the units of production or
services of communal or state property.
Enterprises of communal social property
141. Each commune should aim to set up companies
of communal property that employ labour from the
local area and produce goods and services for
enjoyment or communal use: bakery, market,
communal transport company, water distribution
company, a plant for filling liquid gas
cylinders, service station, among others.
A process of participatory planning to formulate a develpment plan
142. To carry out these activities it will be
very important to carry out a process of
participatory planning that leads to the
formulation of a Development Plan for the
Commune, according to the characteristics,
necessities and interests of that area, to create
goods and services through a system of
articulation between the activities of the
primary sector, the transformation of these and
other primary materials and the commercialisation
of production with the aim of generating a surplus.
143. Moreover, we have to advance towards the
establishment of communal self-government. The
municipal council should begin to transfer an
important part of the functions of government and
the handling of public affairs to the communes,
all of which were previously its functions.
 The mayor's office should preserve in his
hands only those functions which due to their
more general or complex character, justify that choice.
144. The commune should ensure the material and
spiritual conditions to allow its productive
development and the satisfaction of material,
social, cultural and other collective necessities
of its inhabitants. For this, it should work
towards and bring together all its forces toward
the functioning of a plan of communal
development, elaborated in a participatory fashion.
145. Each commune should form a communal
parliament or communal legislative power, which
is a space where the inhabitants of the commune,
who could be referred to as comuneros and
comuneras, are able to make decisions. This
parliament would be made up of spokespersons from
the different communal councils, workers councils
and thematic councils situated in the area and
willing to participate in the construction of the
commune, and would represent nothing less than
the Assembly of Popular Power of the Commune.
146. In the future, the Assembly of Popular Power
of the Commune should establish the government of
the commune, forming the apparatus and
organisations which allows for the assumption of
the tasks which derive from the competencies that
have been transferred to them.
147. This body should elect people to occupy
positions in each of the remaining four state
powers recognised by the Bolivarian Constitution:
the executive, judicial, moral and electoral
power. These public servants should be
accountable and recallable if it is considered
that they do not fulfil the mandate for which they were elected.
Council for communal planning and technical room
148. The commune should count on a council of
communal planning which should promote a process
of participatory planning at the beginning of
each period of government to elaborate a
pluri-annual plan of strategic development of the
commune, as well as annual plans. Plans that
should be inserted into the strategic development
plan of the nation and the rest of the local
plans which, in turn, should nourish these plans
with its proposals and projects.
The communal bank
149. The commune should also count on a financial
entity or communal bank which receives all the funds that it administers.
150. The national government should guarantee a
fund designed for communes, governed by the
principle of equity. The communes more lacking in
resources and historically neglected by the state
should receive more funds than the rest.
Social control over the government
151. An efficient, social control should exist
over the functioning of government, facilitating
means and mechanisms which allow organised
citizens to judge the quality of the services
provided and have the power to facilitate the
sacking of those officials whose performance has
been questioned by a sufficient number of citizens.
Transparency: its central characteristic
152. The central characteristic of this communal
government should be its transparency: public
announcement of the resources on which it will
count on to implement the annual plan,
accountability regarding income and expenditure;
public competition to recruit public servants;
public tendering to grant contracts under social
control of the commune; in general, open books
regarding all activities; signs at each
construction site informing the cost of the
project, the business or community responsible
for the job, the timetable for the work, etc.
Decentralisation which strengthens the state
153. The process of construction of communes
implies bringing forward a process of
decentralisation of competencies and resources in
a way that is planned and within a national
development plan that favours popular activism,
which allows the revolutionary subject to mature,
learning through practice and, in doing so,
strengthening instead of weakening the central
state. Why does it make it stronger? Because
there will be better local results, greater
citizen satisfaction, better instruments to fight
against corruption, and all the governors and
mayors-whether they are with the process or
not-will be subjected to popular control.
 . Valter Pomar, La linea del Ecuador,
article on 13 December 2008. Pomar is the head of
the International Department of the Workers' Party in Brazil.
. Carlos Ruiz, La centralidad de la política
en la acción revolucionaria, Santiago de Chile, 1998, (unpublished).
 . See: Noam Chomsky, El control de los
medios de comunicación, in Cómo nos venden la
moto, Ed. Icaria, Barcelona1996, p.16. The term
"fabricating consensus" is used by Walter Lippman
in Public Opinion, Allen and Unwin, London, 1932,
and cited by Chomsky in op. cit. p.10; this
author also has a book titled: Manufacturing Consent.
 . T. Moulián, Chile actual, anatomía de
un mito, Ed. Arcis/LOM, Santiago de Chile, 1997, op.cit. p. 105.
 . Op.cit. p. 121.
. Valter Pomar, La linea del Ecuador, December 3, 2008.
 . What Kautsky proposed was somewhat
different: that socialist consciousness was
something introduced in the proletarian class
struggle from outside and not something that
arose spontaneously out of the struggle [bold
inserted by Marta Harnecker]. As I explain in my
book Reconstructing the left there are three
types of consciousness in the working class:
spontaneous or naive consciousness, class
consciousness and enlightened class consciousness
or socialist consciousness, which is what Kautsky
was referring. This last one is only reached
through a scientific knowledge of how capitalism
functions. (This book was written in 2006, has
various editions and was published by Siglo XXI,
México 2008. On this issue see Part II, Chapter
4. "The theory underlying this conception of the party" pp.77-88).
 . Marx, Misère de la philosophie, Ed.
Sociales, Paris, 1968, pp.177-178.
 . Grève de masses, parti, et syndicats,
François Maspero, Paris, 1968, p.30.
 . M. Harnecker, Reconstructing the Left,
Op.cit. paragraphs 245 and 246, p.83.
 . Op.cit. paragraph 354, p.114.
 . Op.cit. paragraph 364, p.117.
 . I would prefer saying taking the government as our starting point.
 . Op.cit. p.151.
 . Despite the fact that in his
intervention in the Teresa Carreno theatre in
Caracas, during the Conference of Intellectuals
and Artists in Defence of Humanity, which took
place at the end of November and beginning of
December, 2004, he had already raised the issue.
 . Hugo Chávez, El discurso de la unidad,
The Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex, Rios Reyna
Room, December 15, 2006, pp.32-33.
 . Op.cit. p.41.
 . The New Constitution of the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela, Chapter IV: Political
rights and the Popular Referendum, The First
Section: political rights. Official Gazette, 30
December, 1999, Caracas, Venezuela.
 . In Venezuela, the municipalities are divided into parishes.
 . Marta Harnecker, Los desafíos post
referendo, 25 September 2004, article presented
as a report in the International Meeting;
Civilisation or Barbarism, Portugal, 28 September
2004, and published in English in Monthly Review,
Volume 56, number 6, November 2004.
  Karl Marx, The Civil War in France,
page 71. The text continues in the following way:
The small but important functions which would
still remain for a central government would not
be done away with, as it has been said,
intentionally falsifyingthe truth, but would be
carried out by representatives from the Commune,
who thanks to this condition, would be strictly responsible.
 . Antonio Gramsci, "Sindicatos y
consejos", in Consejos de fábrica y estado en la
clase obrera, Ed. Roca, México, 1973, p. 37.
Translated by Coral Wynter and Federico Fuentes
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