May 16, 2015

Impt excerpt on Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution from Tom Chodor, author: Neoliberal Hegemony and the Pink Tide in Latin America May 16 2015

Tom Chodor of the University of Queensland
" my new book, _Neoliberal Hegemony and the Pink Tide in Latin America: Breaking Up With TINA?_

" the case of Venezuela... as I argue in my book, the Revolution can be more accurately seen as a potentially counter-hegemonic project that seeks to construct a Bolivarian ‘collective will’ – an alternative emancipatory culture based on solidarity, social justice, democracy and protagonism that enables revolutionary praxis. In this analysis, Chávez played the role of a radical ‘organic intellectual,’ reaching out to subaltern social forces, and articulating their multifaceted and often disparate grievances with the social order into a coherent critique of dominant class common sense, founding the basis for the collective will. Once in power, Chávez proceeded to construct political, economic and social structures that would foster this collective will and facilitate radical subaltern praxis. These include, for example, the Communal Councils through which people take over the management of their own communities, rather than relying on elected representatives or bureaucratic officials to do so. Economically, this has involved experiments with a ‘social economy’ in which the profit motive is replaced by a focus on the satisfaction of collective needs, through the promotion of Social Production Enterprises, cooperatives, and worker and co-managed factories. Likewise, there has been a drastic expansion of education, via a system of ‘Missions’ which provide access to education for previously marginalised communities, coupled with the radicalisation of the curriculum towards critical, holistic and transdisciplinary learning. In all of these structures, the focus is on constructing a new common consciousness to enable radical praxis with a strong geopolitical dynamic, as Luis Angosto-Ferrández writes on US-Venezuela relations.

However, the extent and success of these experiments should not be overstated. They are, still, experiments, and occur within the context of the traditional social order. Thus, for example, the social economy experiments remain cautious and often problematic, and embedded in a larger economic project more accurately described as state-led capitalism rather than socialism. Likewise, the traditional institutions of the state endure, while corruption and occasional authoritarian practices remain a problem. This reflects the fact that the Bolivarian collective will remain very much a work in progress, highlighting the difficulties of constructing a radical alternative culture in a short historical period.

Moreover, the Revolution has not attained hegemony across society. While the Bolivarian historical bloc brings together an alliance of subaltern social forces, the state and the military, local and transnational capital remains vehemently opposed to the Revolution, while the middle class support is contingent on the satisfaction of material needs. With Venezuela in the midst of an economic crisis fuelled by a capital strike and policy mistakes, this threatens the future of the Revolution, especially in the absence of Chávez following his death from cancer in 2013. Nevertheless, I argue that the Bolivarian Revolution has unleashed a process of profound change in Venezuela that will not be easily reversed...that creates openings for a radical democratisation of the country."

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