Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, Expectations, and People’s Power

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government is under siege from business-oriented right-wingers. Voting on December 6 for National Assembly delegates will be a test of strength. The process pioneered by the late President Hugo Chavez from 1999 on created new realities for the many and they are the basis for socialist hopes for that day.

Three recent reports offer specimen views of political experiences of people hoping for much who joined the process and realized expectations.  They and presumably others acquired loyalties and now they are preparing a culture of resistance.

Venezuelans are having to endure shortages of essential items, long lines at stores, and increasingly worthless currency. Money is stashed abroad, distributors hoard merchandise, and profiteers sell state- subsidized food and gasoline in Colombia. The opposition uses Colombian paramilitaries and violent street demonstrations to promote destabilization. The U.S. government funds right-wing agitators.

In October, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) said Venezuela’s economy would fall by 5.5 percent during 2015; the International Monetary Fund indicated a 10 percent decline.

Pessimism is not universal, however. On August 31, 2012, workers at the Intercerámica factory in Barquisimeto heard the company’s owner, speaking to them on Skype from Madrid, tell them their factory was closing and would be demolished. The workers went on to occupy the factory for 19 months.  Confronting blackmail and threats, they protected the machinery and installations.  Only 19 workers were still there at the end.

Those few reactivated the plant on October 28, 2013 as “Alfareros del Gre” (Stoneware Potters).  Venezuela’s 2010 Organic Law for “Promotion of the Communal Economic System” had created the entity of a “Company as Communal and Social Property” (Spanish- language initials are EPSC).  The workers sought training and gained administrative savvy from neighboring collectives. Production began in March 2014 of red, tubular clay blocks used for housing construction – no longer flooring tiles and ceramic baseboard made for export. Output in October 2015 was 10,000 blocks per day.

There are currently 85 workers, most under 25 years of age. They expect that soon 150 workers will be producing 35,000 blocks each day. The government’s “Great Venezuelan Housing Mission” buys 70 percent of the blocks. Community councils take another 15 percent for their own building projects, and local hardware stores buy the rest. Earnings are shared equally. Pedro, one the original 19 workers recalls that formerly, “two hours each day were for the producer and six were for the boss.”

Officially, an ESPC is a “socio-productive unit” that, within the territory of one or more communities or communes, is created to benefit “participants and the collective through social reinvestment of surplus income.” Alfareros del Gre is a “direct” ESPC which signifies that “the means of production are social and communal property.”

The lives of Colombian refugees living in Venezuela are also looking up. Threats and forced dispossession of land and homes caused 5,600,000 of them to move to Venezuela over the last 40 years. Journalist Marco Teruggi reports that they’ve received 25 percent of the housing units of the “Great Venezuela Housing Mission and “111,000 [Colombians] are now studying [at the university level] under Mission Sucre; 60,000 students have completed the [remedial high school course] of Mission Ribas.”

Juan Carlos Tanus heads the Bolivarian Movement of Colombians for Peace. He told Teruggi that, “The development of Chavista culture has reached the saturation point” in migrant committees created through Venezuela’s Organic Law for Community Councils.”  Tanus elaborates:  “Chavista culture is when you go to a hospital to ask for help so that a brother, a compatriot with a calamity, might be cared for and you receive it at whatever level of attention. Compare this with the Colombian model: subsidized health care that doesn’t work, hospitals neglected, the population abused, people dying in hospitals because of no medicines.”

New arrivals in Venezuela “undergo cultural shock,” he said.  In Colombia, “educational levels are so low and they deal with people one by one; here they speak of collectivization … The Bolivarian concept, a free America, emancipation of the peoples, collective construction: all this is different from what we learned in Colombia, which was about academic, individual, and citizen competition.”

The experience of Colombian refugees in Venezuela dedicated now to political change presumably extends to Venezuelans who also reject precarious living and who think President Nicolas Maduro’s Bolivarian government is worth fighting for.

In an interview with TeleSur, socialist Blanca Eekhout, a National Assembly delegate, had more to say about why the “Chavista” movement retains popular backing. “For the first time,” she stated, “we … are going into these elections with gender equality. In our primaries, half of our candidates were also young people under 30.” The interviewer explains: “political parties have to have an equal number of male and female candidates, and must alternate them on their lists.”

As regards the upcoming vote, Eekhout was explicit: “[W]e want the revolution to continue to have a majority in the National Assembly], because if the right-wing wins, it will want to prevent the people from having access to all the revolution’s achievements, and to block their participation, to make the revolution fail.”

More articles by:

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring