No Todos Somos Chávez: Venezuela says ‘No’

“The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”

Local Chávistsas in the DSP/Resistance/Socialist Alliance have been busy counting their pollos before they hatch. A breathless piece of late-breaking news recapitulating The Great Leader’s warning should the Yanqui imperialistas interfere in the country’s domestic politics accompanies the rather obvious expectation of a win in the December 2nd referendum:

Breaking news on Venezuela’s constitutional reform referendum
Green Left Weekly
December 1, 2007

BREAKING NEWS — As Green Left Weekly goes to press, the Venezuelan government has released video evidence of a violent destabilisation campaign being planned by US-funded opponents of the Chavez government and the process of change. The campaign is based on reject[ing] the outcome of the referendum being held on December 2. Speaking to up to a million supporters of the constitutional reforms and the revolution on November 30, President Hugo Chavez threatened to cut off oil supplies immediately to the US, in retaliation against any violent attacks. Chavez has referred to the constitutional reform campaign, which aims to open the way to socialist transformation, as the revolution’s most important battle yet…

As it happens, the referendum (and “the revolution’s most important battle yet”) has been lost — just. Exactly why it was lost is obviously very difficult to establish, but of the 69 proposed changes to the Venezuelan Constitution voters were asked to approve, the most controversial appears to have been that which would’ve allowed Hugo to remain in office until 2050 (God-willing) (Venezuela rejects bid by Chávez to amend charter, Simon Romero, International Herald Tribune, December 3, 2007). In which case, minus Chávez, the referendum may have succeeded, and Venezuela be that much further along the road to ‘socialism’.

Oddly enough, at the same time Venezuelan voters rejected ‘socialism’, Russian voters endorsed Putin’s continued rule of the former Communist stronghold. And while the election in Venezuela appears to have been relatively ‘fair’ — at least in the sense that votes were counted, even if they were contra the ‘reforms’ — the same cannot be said for Russia. Well, not according to independent observers anyway. Putin’s Party Wins Russian Election, Vladimir Isachenkov, AP, December 3, 2007: “European election monitors said Monday that Russia’s parliamentary ballot was unfair, hours after President Vladimir Putin’s party swept 70 percent of the seats in the new legislature. The victory paves the way for Putin to remain Russia’s de facto leader even after he leaves office next spring…”

Still, like Chávez in Venezuela, Putin does have his supporters, including among youth. The BBC recently profiled one: Andrei Tatarinov, “an activist for the youth wing of the United Russia party” (Viewpoint: Pro-Putin cheerleader, Patrick Jackson, November 26, 2007). A few interesting facts about Andrei are that he used to be a follower of Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party (“I was going through a rebellious phase, reading books about Che Guevara, Trotsky, the Russian Revolution”) and that he identifies the political opposition to Putin as being “either anarchists or… want[ing] to drag us backwards – to the chaos of the 1990s or to the communist past”. Chávez, on the other hand, has described opponents of the referendum not as “anarchists” but ‘as “daddy’s little children”, “fascists” and “the children of the rich”, accusing them of acting on orders from the US Government’ (100,000 march against Hugo Chavez reforms, The Times, November 30, 2007). In Venezuela, anarchists — routinely denounced as bourgeois, fascist and right-wing, not only by Chávez, but by all the lapdogs of all the powers, old and new — have issued a few statements on the proposed reforms. One, Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform: A Threat to What Was Won Through Struggle is available via World War 4 Report; an extract from another is below.

INSURGENTES against Venezuela’s constitutional reform

Various organizations and individuals within Venezuela, each with a history of social struggle and each bringing with them diverse proposals from the anti-authoritarian and critical left, have assembled in the space of INSURGENTES (INSURGENTS) to forge a position against the proposed constitutional “reform” offered by the republic’s President, Hugo Chavez Frias.

Constitutions, in all countries, invariably reflect the power relations that exist between society’s different social classes. Today’s proposed “reform” simply confirms the victory obtained by transnational capital during the coup and petrol sabotage of 2002-2003 which created mixed businesses and has led to the handover of vast new mineral and petroleum concessions to foreign capital.

The President’s “reform” proposals, the modifications passed by the National Assembly and all of the other modifications that have been announced, fundamentally inscribe and accommodate global capitalism’s agenda to demolish, across the board, any obstacles which impede the growth of profit, access to the country’s enormous energy and mineral reserves, and the free circulation of capital, goods and services. They are an extension of what is called the “globalization” of the world economy – a process which reflects the predatory nature of international capital.

As a provider of energy, minerals and hard currency, Venezuela is one of the pillars of the world capitalist economy, offering vital support to the profitability of the big energy and mineral corporations and thus entirely implicated in a perverse and genocidal model of civilization.

The principal objective pursued by big capital with this “reform” is to give constitutional authority to the system of mixed property established between the National State and private capital (through mixed businesses), which is implied in the offering of sovereignty to the transnationals and foreign governments — and not only in oil but also in minerals and all public services.

This alliance was legalized in 2006 by the National Assembly when, without consulting anyone, they approved the Standard Contract of Mixed Businesses. By applying this organizational structure, transnational oil businesses changed their role from that of service providers to owners of 40% of the hydrocarbons that are under the subsoil of Venezuelan territory. This represents the essence of the so-called “reform” and explains the speed with which they want to place this issue before the people — in order to legitimize electorally their new political swindle. Once it has attained its primary objective of privatization, global capitalism will permit the Bolivarian government any number of corresponding structural changes; so long as it continues to allow the intensification and stabilization of their lucrative and exploitive activities. With the subordination of the State firmly in place via the creation of mixed-property (State/international Capital alliance) sovereignty is violated at the economic base of the entire society – not only in the oil industry but in all branches of the economy.

To obtain this the government, in the interest and behest of international capital, has by necessity to introduce, among others, the following changes:

1. Concentration of power in the President of the Republic (Articles 11, 16, 18, 70, 136, 141, 156, 158, 167, 184, 185, 225, 230, 236, 251, 252, 305, 307, 318, 320, 321, 328, 329 and the transitory measures), in flagrant contradiction to the principle of popular participation and leadership.

The proposed “reform” grants the President extensive powers which are not subject to any external control: Chief of State; Head of Government; Administrator of Public Finances and the National Budget; Author and Ratifier of International Accords and Treaties; Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces with the power to intervene in all of its branches and appoint officials; Creator and Director of New Territorial Entities and Public Powers; Directing the Budgets for the Missions; naming vice-presidents; establishing and arranging international reserves; Inspector and Director of the National Counsel of Government and the Counsel of State, and establishing and unilaterally directing the country’s developmental plans.

It is abundantly clear that the usurpation of the right to choose local and regional representatives by the President of the Republic — who under the terms of the reform will appoint them himself — is in direct contradiction to his claim of public electoral responsibility (article 70). In open complicity with the National Assembly and other public powers, the President will have the unilateral authority to execute these sweeping powers…

[Continued… DOC]

On a vaguely-related note, see also Alex Nunns, Car crash on the left, Red Pepper, December 2007–January 2008. “The increasingly bitter division of Respect into two conflicting factions looks set to destroy the most effective electoral challenge to the left of Labour in many years. Alex Nunns spoke to the main protagonists on either side of the split…” RESPECT (SWP) // RESPECT (non-SWP) // Socialist Alliance (UK) // Democratic Socialist Alliance (UK) // Campaign for a New Workers’ Party (UK) // Campaign for a Marxist Party

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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47 Responses to No Todos Somos Chávez: Venezuela says ‘No’

  1. Darrin Hodges says:

    Hugo can blame the joooos:

    Police raided Venezuela’s main Jewish social club on the eve of a national referendum

    The raid on La Hebraica late Saturday night occurred just hours before Venezuelans went to the polls to decide on constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez. The raid was seen as a provocation against the Jewish community, which is almost unanimously opposed to Chavez, a major ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his leftist reforms.

    The police raid took place as 900 Jews enjoyed an all-night wedding party at the nearby Union Israelita synagogue in Altamira, an upscale suburb of Caracas.

    According to sources, members of the police unit that investigates drug-trafficking and terrorism broke the main gate of La Hebraica in the middle of the night, allegedly looking for weapons and explosives.

    Officers searched the premises but found nothing, the sources said.

    Venezuelans on Sunday rejected by a narrow margin 69 constitutional amendments proposed by the Chavez government, including eliminating presidential term limits, which would have paved the way for Chavez to be re-elected indefinitely.

    Saturday night’s raid echoed one from November 2005, when Venezuelan police raided a Jewish school in Caracas looking for weapons. None were found.

  2. Norm Dixon says:

    Dear oh dear, and you wonder why I think you are a rightwinger? You just regurgitate the US State Department’s and capitalist press’ lies about the referendum? — “but of the 69 proposed changes to the Venezuelan Constitution voters were asked to approve, the most controversial appears to have been that which would’ve allowed Hugo to remain in office until 2050 (God-willing) (Venezuela rejects bid by Chávez to amend charter, Simon Romero, International Herald Tribune, December 3, 2007).”

    What utter rubbish. It simply meant that Chavez could continue TO BE ELECTED AT ELECTIONS for as long as the Venezuelan people CONTINUED TO VOTE HIM IN! What a shocking concept! I wonder why the Australian media doesn’t describe the Australian electoral system in the same way? “Kevin Rudd wants to be prime minister for life” because that is all that was being proposed, along with many other very progressive changes (see below).

    Anyway, you, the CIA, the rightwing Venezeulan parties and the US State Department can party on for a day two, but don’t con yourself that the revolution has been defeated.

    Here’s the AVSN’s statement on the referendum, which contains some useful facts (unlike your pseudo-anarchist diatribe):

    Venezuelan referendum: Democracy prevails, the Bolivarian revolution continues

    Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network statement on Venezuela’s constitutional reforms referendum
    December 4, 2007

    The December 2 referendum on 69 proposed changes to Venezuela’s constitution resulted in a narrow majority “No” vote. The result was immediately accepted by President Hugo Chavez, who said: “We have fulfilled our promise of respecting our institutions. The umpire has spoken… We declare that we recognise the decision that the people have made. For now we could not do it. …I congratulate my adversaries for their victory. We are prepared for a long battle.”

    9,002,439 Venezuelans voted, of which 8,883,746 votes were valid. In the block A vote (the reforms proposed by Chavez), 50.7% voted against and 49.3% voted for. In the block B vote (the reforms proposed by the National Assembly), 51.1% voted against and 48.9% voted for.

    This is the first time in 12 national polls since Chavez was elected in 1998 that the opposition has won. Had the proposed constitutional reforms been adopted, they would have significantly extended democracy and social justice in Venezuela. They included the constitutional recognition of new institutions of popular power based on direct democracy, such as the communal councils, and new measures to allow people to directly manage resources and decision-making in their communities. While respecting the right to private property, the reforms recognised new forms of “social property” run by and for the people themselves, and were to give further recognition to the growing number of cooperatives.

    The rights of gay men and lesbians would have been recognised in the Constitution, and the voting age reduced to 16 years. The rights and culture of Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous people would also have been Constitutionally protected, and governments would have been obliged to ensure free university education to the entire population. As well, workers’ rights would be significantly extended, including a reduction in the working week from 44 to 36 hours, and social security and pensions were guaranteed to approximately 5 million workers in the “informal” economy.

    In the words of Robert Hernandez, vice-president of the Venezuelan legislature, the reforms aimed to “transfer greater powers to the people and that’s precisely the first step towards socialism. It’s not anything other than giving society functions that until now have been privileges of the State.”

    But the referendum result is far from a fatal blow to the Bolivarian revolution. The fact that 4.3 million people voted for this program of action is in many ways remarkable, a measure of the deepening revolutionary process. As Chavez said after the result was announced: “In the proposals there where some very audacious ideas without precedent.”


  3. vents says:

    Yes, because the CIA does not like him means he is awesome, obviously.

  4. vents says:

    Norm Dixon why did the working class not turn out to vote for this then? Did the reactionary propaganda machine trick everybody? No. This is a sign that the working class and poor are not as wild about Chavez as we have been led to believe and probably because after 10 years they are still… poor and working class! I think we should probably leave the analysis of the Bolivarian revolution to the people in Venezuela who have to live that shit. This is one you will have to take on the chin.

  5. @ndy says:

    G’day Norm.

    1) “Dear oh dear, and you wonder why I think you are a rightwinger?”

    Yes and no. Yes, I wonder sometimes exactly how someone like yourself might justify such an accusation (“cynical whining rightwinger posing as an anarchist” to be precise); no, it’s a fairly standard form of abuse encountered when questioning such things as the success of the Socialist Alliance electoral campaign, especially when such criticism emanates from an anarchist. The motive, obviously, is to switch from discussing the content of the criticisms to the qualifications of the person making them. In this case, because the criticism emanates from a ‘right-winger’, it may be safely dismissed. Alternatively, it comes from a ‘bad’ anarchist’; no ‘good’ anarchist would dare utter such travesties.

    2) “You just regurgitate the US State Department’s and capitalist press’ lies about the referendum?”

    Um, no. Self-evidently. I’ve quoted from four sources: the Green Left Weekly, the International Herald Tribune, The Times, and El Libertario.

    As for lies, it’s true that a ‘Yes’ vote would not automatically have resulted in Hugo becoming President-for-Life. I know that, and you’ll notice that nowhere do I make that claim. You, on the other hand, maintain that “Chavez could continue TO BE ELECTED AT ELECTIONS for as long as the Venezuelan people CONTINUED TO VOTE HIM IN… is all that was being proposed, along with many other very progressive changes”. As I understand it, this is incorrect. To be precise:

    1. Concentration of power in the President of the Republic (Articles 11, 16, 18, 70, 136, 141, 156, 158, 167, 184, 185, 225, 230, 236, 251, 252, 305, 307, 318, 320, 321, 328, 329 and the transitory measures), in flagrant contradiction to the principle of popular participation and leadership.

    The proposed “reform” grants the President extensive powers which are not subject to any external control: Chief of State; Head of Government; Administrator of Public Finances and the National Budget; Author and Ratifier of International Accords and Treaties; Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces with the power to intervene in all of its branches and appoint officials; Creator and Director of New Territorial Entities and Public Powers; Directing the Budgets for the Missions; naming vice-presidents; establishing and arranging international reserves; Inspector and Director of the National Counsel of Government and the Counsel of State, and establishing and unilaterally directing the country’s developmental plans.

    It is abundantly clear that the usurpation of the right to choose local and regional representatives by the President of the Republic — who under the terms of the reform will appoint them himself — is in direct contradiction to his claim of public electoral responsibility (article 70). In open complicity with the National Assembly and other public powers, the President will have the unilateral authority to execute these sweeping powers…

    In other words, the changes not only provided for Hugo to remain at the top — subject to periodic ratification by voters — but massively increased the powers invested in the office of President.

    As an aside, while the possibility of someone occupying the most important political office in the country for an indefinite period of time — say, 50 years — may be acceptable to yourself, there is actually a reasonable argument that such is contrary to other conceptions of democratic practice, and in the context of South American politics, this has special resonance.

    3) “Anyway, you, the CIA, the rightwing Venezuelan parties and the US State Department can party on for a day two, but don’t con yourself that the revolution has been defeated.”

    Oooh, you are sneaky Norm! Yeah mate, me, the CIA and all those other nasty horrible rightwingers are gonna party like it’s 1999.

    Honestly mate, give it up.

  6. Norm Dixon says:

    I suggest that if you at all want to seriously study developments in Venezuela and not rely on the capitalist press and the lazy sectarians who rely on its misrepresentations (liberally drawn, yes from the US State Department and the CIA), you should bookmark venezuelanalysis and visit it regularly. There are also some useful articles at Links magazine on the popular participation developing, through the Communal Councils and other grassroots bodies.

    Hey, and why not read what Noam Chomsky has to say about Venezuela and its Bolivarian Revolution? See:

    Noam Chomsky on Recent Developments in Venezuela (May 18th 2007, by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan and Matthew Skogstad-Stubbs)
    A Revolution is Just Below the Surface (September 28th 2007, by Eva Golinger, Noam Chomsky)

  7. @ndy says:


    That’s all well and good. But it doesn’t answer the question — repeated several times now, both above and in the thread on the SA election results — as to what is the evidentiary basis for you claiming that I am 1) a rightwinger and 2) not an anarchist. Secondly, it doesn’t address the points I raise above inre the nature of the proposed changes to the referendum and its implications for the office of President. As it stands, your mentality is the mirror-image of El Presidente Bush: “you’re either for us, or against us”.

    Not exactly subtle.

  8. @ndy says:

    PS. I’ve read the two interviews with Chomsky. Your point was?

  9. grumpy cat says:

    groan… and groan again.
    Perhaps the “Bolivarian Revolution” involves the development of grass-roots constituent power, statist and authoritarian practices, anti-capitalist organisation and bonapartism; all in a contradictory and fecund way, perhaps it is a struggle…
    Perhaps being critical of Chavez means you should still be open to the actual activities of the Chavistas on the ground… and perhaps being critical of Chavez doesn’t make you a CIA funded supporter of reaction…
    And perhaps being a supporter of the struggle in Venezuela doesn’t mean you have to ignore that Chavez is a bit of an arse…
    rebel love
    Dave (suffering from both pain and painkillers)

  10. Adam says:

    i’m confused once again norm. if chavez is meant to be the just representative of the people of venezuela and all that (and not a power hungry military coup leader) shouldn’t it be more important what the people want than what he wants? and for andy, myself or anyone else to say that they agree with the vote conducted by the people of the country in not granting extra powers (whatever they may be) is in fact in line with what should be the point of government if your to have one (and it’s a big IF) that the government should be the servant of the people? and given only as much power as the people want it to have? i mean shouldn’t this be held up by the dsp and other proponents of chavez as testament to him not being the ruthless dictator he is suggested to be by the right wingers and cia and bla bla bla… i mean for fuck’s sake it reminds me of the reverse of the old kissinger quote about the chilean election “we couldn’t let a country go communist just cause of the irresponsibility of its people”

  11. @ndy says:

    …To summarize, the constitutional “reform” wants to establish, as a vital legal principle, the guarantee of government authority through continual reelection, the militarization of society, the flexibility of labor (the progressive loss of labor rights), the concentration of political power in the Presidency of the Republic and the control of social movements — all of which, it must be noted, are actions dictated by the global centers of power.

    This reform of the Magna Carta is no solution to the problem of social insecurity, unemployment, housing, health, education, machismo, violence in the home and against women, the lack of a safety-net that is afflicting so many Venezuelans: particularly in the most oppressed and exploited sectors of society. These ills, peculiar to the development of capitalism in Venezuela, have been intensified in the last 9 years due to the corruption, improvisation and inefficiency of this government and in spite of the fact that we are living in the middle of the largest and most sustained fiscal bonanza in the country’s history due to the enormous profits derived from the rise in oil prices.

    A permanent social struggle against all established structures of power is the only way to successfully get rid of this document: to make concrete the realization of the rights defined as universal, indivisible and mutually dependent that are expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims in its first article: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Human rights are non-negotiable with capitalism in any context and under any circumstance. The hard won victories of the past, earned through the historical struggle of the Venezuelan people, threaten to be confiscated with this reform.

    We call upon workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, the excluded, students, intellectuals, those deprived of their liberty, as well as social organizations — which is to say all of the people — to reject the “reform.” It is a disguise for the establishment of capitalism within a Military State, following the Chinese and Cuban models, thereby guaranteeing a more efficient and servile local administration of the neo-liberal globalization project.

    Only the social struggles of the people and their organizations which are truly autonomous in the face of state and corporate power will be able to bring about the changes Venezuelan society has demanded since the arrival in these lands of what is so generously called “occidental civilization.”

    Caracas, 10-30-2007

    The members of the Insurgentes space of Venezuela: Colectivo Pueblo y Conciencia (Maracay). Anarchist Black Cross of Venezuela (Cruz Negra Anarquista de Venezuela), Grupo Soberanía, El Libertario Newspaper, Grupo Defensores del Bolívar, Ágora27-UCV, Tercer Camino, Cecavid (Lara), Justicia y Paz (Aragua), El Conuco de la Vida (Trujillo), La Libertaria (Biscucuy). Domingo Alberto Rangel, Migdalia Valdez, Victor Felizardo, Victor Poleo, Narlis Díaz, Rafael Uzcátegui, Eudes Vera, Manuel Martínez y Osmar Castillo, Pablo Hernández, Noel León, Rosa Pérez, Guillermo Sira, Nelson Méndez, Lexys Rendón, Humberto Decarli, Hisvet Fernández, Elié Habalian, Luisa Arias, Enrique Márquez, Douglas Fermín, Douglas Bravo, Francisco Prada, Rossabel Arauz, Luís Aguilera, Domingo Andrade, Antonio Decena, María Walter, Fernando Herrera, Esteban Mejías, Luís Silva, Nathaly Vásquez, Ingrid Vegas, Domingo Andrade, Nidia Cárdenas, Luis Cipriano Rodriguez, Rodolfo Rico, Carlos Fehr, Carlos Novo, Jose Rafael López Padrino

  12. grumpy cat says:

    Whilst i think it is useful to read both the Chavista statements and the anarchist ones, neither really provide a reliable analysis – rather they seem to rely on the the ideological fidelities of the reader. I may prefer the anarchist one since it is closer to communist sensibilities – but does that mean it is accurate?

    rebel love

  13. @ndy says:

    The short answer:


    The long answer:

    I look at it this way:

    1) It’s not possible to produce an analysis which exists completely independently of the ideological fidelities of the author. That being the case;
    2) It’s better to be both open about one’s own commitments and;
    3) Try to ensure that whatever analysis is being presented is being presented as clearly as possible and in a way that allows for its empirical basis to be independently evaluated.

    Obviously, just as authors write from a particular perspective — both conscious and unconscious — so too do those who read their works.

    With regards the situation in Venezuela:

    EVA: I read a quote of yours which said power is always illegitimate unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So in Venezuela right now we are in the process of Constitutional reform. And within that reform the People’s Power is going to gain Constitutional rank, above in fact all the other state powers, the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and in Venezuela we also have the electoral and the citizen’s power. Would this be an example of power becoming legitimate? A people’s power? And could this change the way power is viewed? And change the face of Latin America considering that the Bolivarian Revolution is having such an influence over other countries in the region?

    CHOMSKY: Your word, the word “could”, is the right word. Yes it “could”, but it depends how it is implemented. In principle it seems to be a very powerful and persuasive conception, but everything always depends on implementation. If there is really authentic popular participation in the decision-making and the free association of communities, yeah, that could be tremendously important. In fact that’s essentially the traditional anarchist ideal. That’s what was realized the only time for about a year in Spain in 1936 before it was crushed by outside forces, in fact all outside forces, Stalinst Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini’s fascism and the Western democracies cooperated in crushing it. They were all afraid of it. But that was something like what you are describing, and if it can function and survive and really disperse power down to participants and their communities, it could be extremely important…

    To put it another way, I’m ‘open to the actual activities of the Chavistas on the ground’ in the sense that I welcome attempts by any forces to create and sustain forms of self-managed struggle, but to the extent that the term ‘Chavista’ has meaning, I am wary of the ultimate destination of such activity. Or:

    EVA: Do you think it’s just an idealist illusion or can it really be manifested?

    CHOMSKY: I think it can. It’s usually crushed by outside force because it’s considered so dangerous…

    EVA: But in this case when it’s the government who’s promoting it? The state who’s promoting it?

    CHOMSKY: That’s what going to be the crucial question. Is it coming from the State or is it coming from the people? Now, maybe it can be initiated from the State, but unless the energy is really coming from the population itself, it’s very likely to fall into some sort of top-down directed pattern, and that’s the real question. In Spain in 1936, the reason for the very substantial success is because it was popular – it’s a quite different situation from Venezuela. In Spain, the anarchist tradition was very deeply rooted. There had been 50 years of education, experiments, efforts which were crushed, I mean it was in people’s minds. So when the opportunity came they were developing what was already in their minds, what they had tried to do many times, it wasn’t spontaneous, it was the result of decades of education, organizing and activism on the ground. Now Venezuela is a different situation, it’s being initiated from above, and the question is can that lead to direct popular participation and [innovation] and energy and so on. That’s a real historical experiment, I don’t know the answer…

    I’ve read a number of analyses produced by El Libertario (in English), and in general they seem to be fairly reasonable. One of the advantages of ‘anarchist’ analysis, in my opinion — one usually presented as a weakness in mainstream discourse — is the fact that there is little or no obligation to defend the actions of existing authorities; on the most vulgar level, to defend one party or another. The better analyses take advantage of this fact to produce the kinds of critiques you refer to above, ones which recognise that the Bolivarian revolution — as well as social struggle generally — “involves the development of grass-roots constituent power, statist and authoritarian practices, anti-capitalist organisation and bonapartism; all in a contradictory and fecund way”.

    “Perhaps it is a struggle?”

    Yes of course:

    …Now, it is announced by the Venezuelan government an explosion of the communal power, with the massive implantation and hanging over for the Communal Councils, communitarian and horizontal organizations of popular power. Do anarchists support those kind of grassroots structures?

    We began to see that the establishment and functioning of the Communal Councils will own its existence and capacity of action as depending on their loyalty to the State, which is assured allowing the President the juridical faculty of giving or not the approval to those organizations, in the way it is expressed in the corresponding laws. In Venezuela there are examples of that kind of situation, where a lot of grassroots organizations (as the trade unions for not going further), they always has seemed the tramcars which receives current from above. Indeed, there are attempts for a real organization from below toward above, and it happens in some fields as local, peasants, natives, ecologists, students, cultural, etc, even when they do not have the affection of the government. We think that the legal, functional and financial submission of the Communal Councils to the power of the State will be a severe obstacle to begin from it a grassroots autonomous movement. This is also valid for the announced Workers Councils for the companies which seem to be a project to waste away a free trade unionism.

    Why do anarchists criticize the Venezuelan Armed Force, of a unambiguous popular and nationalist root, and its capability of supporting the revolutionary project?

    In all modern armies, since Europe in the XVII and XVIII centuries to Latin America at the present day, the biggest part of the troops are conscript of the popular sectors. However, despite the origin of the majority of their members, the reason of the existence of the army is the defense of a structure of power and of its supporters, and this is the reason why the army cannot support a revolution in favour of the oppressed. Maybe, there will be a change of a figure for another one and some rules in the power structure but never abolish it because command and obedience are its essence. That is the reason why we do not support any army, any police or any privileged person that could use the force and the weapons against other people. Nationalism is not a position that anarchism supports because this one implies the defense of the interests of certain group of peoples, confined artificially in a nation-territory, and that believe that they are different and even better than others. We are enemies of any kind of privilege such as those by birth, race, culture, religion or place of birth. Furthermore, the unlucky history of the Venezuelan military structure talks by itself: it was institutionalized by the tyrant Gómez to beat the federalist aspirations of the regions; consolidated in its repressive vocation during the fight against the leftist insurrectional movements of the 1960s; executioner of the 1989 massacre.

    Are the Venezuelan anarchists ‘escuálidos’ (squalids, nickname used by the chavism to call their opponents), and for that reason they support the social democracy and right opposition?

    ‘Escuálido’ is only a media category, disparaging in its official political use and with a smell of slogan that do not say anything about those which are described so. However, if they want to use this word for describing those that do not want to give in our freedom and autonomy to submit to the authoritarian imposition of a person, party or ideology, then we do are. However, if with that word we mean that we support ideologies identified with economic liberalism, with the quasi-racist contempt of the elites for the majorities, with the swindle of the representative democracy or the return of forms of socio-political organization beaten by history, then, we are not. In fact, we do not support Chávez or their electoral competitors; we can agree with some of the actions of ones and others, with some discourses of any of them, but in-depth we criticize the majority of the actions and discourses of all of them. We refuse the continuous frustration of the hopes of the people that has supported Chávez, but we also refuse to validate the demagoguery tactics of the opportunist ghetto of those who function as their institutional opposition. And, the most important, due to our principles, we cannot support to those who bases the quest for a better life in any kind of subordination of the people to the State hierarchy as both factions do.

    There are peoples that consider themselves as libertarians but support the Chávez process. If we consider them as less anarchists, it would be an argument against the anti-dogmatic spirit of anarchism?

    Anarchism is not a state of the soul. It is a way to confront the changing social conditions seeking the welfare of everyone in the context of the welfare of all, with proposals that emerge from concrete peoples and those are discussed, taken or refused by the people in certain spatial-time circumstances. Anybody could call themselves as anarchism because we do not have neither a card nor a baptize that identifies us. Only the mutual interaction identifies us and only the other anarchists are who identifies us as anarchists or not due to our behavior or ideas. However, we are not perfect and for that reason, we can adopt ideas that would not be identified with the acceptable ideas. This fact does not make us more or less but only different and, in some cases, the ideas are so different in ones and others that the mutual identification get lost.

    Anarchists only talk without contributing. What is the proposal to transform positively the current Venezuelan reality?

    Our struggle is not a matter of the situation or the circumstances, but for a new way of life that we have to adopt for the individual and collective life, where direct action and self-management allow our existence to be in our own hands, sincerely and honestly, studying some matters and in the way we related to the others, male and female, respecting the equity and our difference that does not make us better than the rest, taking always into account that our existence is thanks to other people, whose interests we have to attend with priority to be able to attend ours, those that we have not to give up because we want to live a good life. Everybody lives his/her life and is responsible for it before oneself and the others, but anybody cannot assume our ‘salvation’. That is the reason why it does not exist a recipe made for a particular social reality or for another one, because the proposals and actions to transform it have to be a result of a aware and continuous collective effort we try to contribute with our cheerful participation, promoting and empowering the recovery of the autonomy of the social movements of the country where it will be possible the necessary space of tension for the development and influence of the anarchist ideas of freedom, and equity in solidarity.

    ~ Refuting the Deafs: Chavism and Anarchism in Venezuela (May 2007)

  14. grumpy cat says:

    Hi Andy and Co…
    Yes whilst i agree with the obvious point that writing can not escape the subjectivity of the writer what i do find so tiresome is the way that ideology seems to pre-determine the stance so many take in relation to a struggle. It acts as a block to new and fresh thinking. I guess also i want to move away from the idea that formal ideology is the determining factor in a struggle – hence why i rejected Leninism… and why I was never that sold on anarchism. Struggle is based in the antagonisms of the material conditions of capitalism. A variety of radical politics express this to a variety of levels. Faced with the limitations that a certain form of politics may impose on us moving from a class in to a class for itself i don’t think the correct response is to offer a ‘better’ ideology – rather it is to extend the struggle. Which may be how on the ground El Liberatrio works – the one copy of their newspaper I had a look over (and a was given a translation of the headlines) certainly seemed to suggest that.
    However anarchists in Australia seem more interested in scoring points off their rivals in SA than critical engagement. I guess both anarchos and trots have a brand to sell…
    rebel love

  15. Dr. Cam says:

    Do Chavists get about in hoodies and say ‘innit’ a lot?

  16. @ndy says:

    Last things first:

    Cam: No.


    “I guess both anarchos and trots have a brand to sell…”

    Megalo! Megalo! Megalo! Grand sale! Grand sale! Grand sale! All stock MUST go. We will NOT be beaten on price. No reasonable offer refused. Pay less with cash.

    “However anarchists in Australia seem more interested in scoring points off their rivals in SA than critical engagement…”

    Maybe. On the other hand…

    There are 919 posts on this blog: 28 contain the term “Socialist Alliance”; fewer again are dedicated to the subject. Or: more than 891 (of 919) posts do not concern the SA. To put it another way: 3.05% of posts contain the term “Socialist Alliance”; 96.95% do not.

    As for “critical engagement”, I think there’s some, and of what there is, most has nothing to do with the Socialist Alliance.

    Beyond that, I don’t know of any other discussion on the subject of anarchist approaches to the SA… perhaps you do?

    More tomorrow…

  17. Dr. Cam says:

    That’s exactly what I’d expect a CIA lapdog to say.

  18. Adam says:

    but andy of the 919 posts while only 28 contain “socialist alliance” how many contain “commie bastards” or “trot wankers”?

  19. @ndy says:

    Old & Not-Good News, via infoshop by way of @-Infos:

    On October 7, masked gunmen opened fire on student protestors in Caracas, Venezuela, who were returning from a protest against President Hugo Chavez’s proposed Constitutional reforms. Thousands of students marched on the Supreme Court protesting the reforms, which Chavez proposes to pass by referendum and critics say consolidate executive powers, giving the President control of the Central Bank, abolishing presidential term limits, expanding state of emergency powers, and creating new provinces to be governed by centrally appointed officials. These authoritarian changes are paired with populist measures like reducing the voting age and decreasing the hours of the maximum work day.

    After the protest, as students were returning to the Venezuela Central University (UCV), they were attacked by an armed group of Chavistas with gas grenades, knives, clubs, stones, and pistols. Anti-authoritarian students who had participated in the protest, though they lacked firearms and all but improvised weapons, counterattacked and forced the “pistoleros” to take refuge in a university building. Shortly, a much larger group of armed Chavistas arrived on motorcycle to rescue the first group. In total, eight student protestors were injured.

    Two of the those injured are members of Venezuela’s Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), a prisoner support group that opposes Chavez’s dictatorial rule. They and other libertarian opponents of the Chavez regime have experienced heavy repression. One week earlier, police dispersed a major protest against the Constitutional reforms with water cannons and tear gas.

    Very few leftwing media outlets have reported the attacks on the protestors. The corporate media continuously portray Chavez in a negative light, mainly on the basis of his socialist reforms, and the US has attempted to organize at least one coup attempt against Chavez, who himself originally tried to come to power in a military coup; thus many opponents of US imperialism raise Chavez to the stature of a popular hero, glossing over his authoritarian credentials, and repression of opponents. While the Chavez regime does face strong opposition from the country’s business leaders, it has also been targeted by protests from students, antiauthoritarian groups, and indigenous peoples inhabiting the heavily exploited coal-producing regions. Similar habits of uncritical support for opponents of the superpower led to reduced and delayed recognition of state repression and abuses with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Castro regime in Cuba.


    compiled from

    reports of Anarchist Black Cross Venezuela

  20. grumpy cat says:

    Hi All,
    Andy i like your blog and think most of it is great. But I think my characterisation of anarchists in Australia as being focused on promoting anarchism as ideology (and thus sharing many similarities with Leninism in regards to the relationship between struggle and knowledge – whilst also maintaining crucial differences) is a fair one. Sure it’s a generalisation but as generalisations go there is some substance behind it.

    As for the violence against the ABC militants, well that is totally fucked. It would be horrible, but predictable, if the more statist elements of struggle in Venezuela collapsed into sectarian violence as the political sequence around the president begins to grind to a halt. I hope my writings here have not come across as a defence of the state as a method of social change – we have to forsake the space of the state. I just want a different orientation for anti-statists when it comes to the question of how to relate to actual flesh and blood struggles; and a break with ideological approaches to rebellion.


  21. grumpy cat says:

    And i realise that the onus really falls on me to start articulating some kind of alternative to what i criticise…
    rebel love

  22. @ndy says:


    There’s a lot that could be said on the subject of anarchist activism in Australia. Here’s a few points I think worth making in this context:

    1) In Australia, anarchist “theory” is almost completely non-existent. There is no anarchist theoretical journal, for example.

    2) There’s a difference between suggesting that “anarchists in Australia seem more interested in scoring points off their rivals in SA than critical engagement” and “anarchists in Australia [are] focused on promoting anarchism as ideology… and thus shar[e] many similarities with Leninism in regards to the relationship between struggle and knowledge”.

    I’ve already addressed the former statement (and indicated why I think it’s unfounded), but I’m not sure how to respond to the latter argument. For one thing, it requires definition.

    Who are these “anarchists”?

    What do they do?

    Of the things that anarchists do, which may be defined as “promoting anarchism as ideology”, and which may not?

    What is the anarchist understanding of the relationship between struggle and knowledge, and what does it share in common with the Leninist understanding?

    I see a number of difficulties in answering these questions. However, I feel most comfortable speaking in reference to my own opinions and activities, so feel free to do the same.

    2) Ideology is, to put it unphilosophically, a loaded concept. As you use the term, it appears to mean an understanding of the world which is, in some sense, derived from a priori assumptions about its nature. Thus in the case of the contemporary political situation in Venezuela, anarchists may not produce reliable analyses partly because they are anarchists; that is, their analyses proceed from a set of assumptions which (are more likely to) reflect their ideological commitments than they are what’s “really” happening. The same goes for the fans of Hugo Boss.

    More broadly, the question of ideology is bound up with all sorts of other epistemological questions. Thus the existence of ideology implies the existence of non-ideological understandings. But the $64,000 question is: how does one distinguish one from the other?

    God, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    the courage to change the things I can;
    and the wisdom to know the difference…

    Despite not being an anarchist, I appreciate Knabb’s approach:

    Theory versus ideology

    To theorize is simply to try to understand what we are doing. We are all theorists whenever we honestly discuss what has happened, distinguish between the significant and the irrelevant, see through fallacious explanations, recognize what worked and what didn’t, consider how something might be done better next time. Radical theorizing is simply talking or writing to more people about more general issues in more abstract (i.e. more widely applicable) terms. Even those who claim to reject theory theorize — they merely do so more unconsciously and capriciously, and thus more inaccurately.

    Theory without particulars is empty, but particulars without theory are blind. Practice tests theory, but theory also inspires new practice.

    Radical theory has nothing to respect and nothing to lose. It criticizes itself along with everything else. It is not a doctrine to be accepted on faith, but a tentative generalization that people must constantly test and correct for themselves, a practical simplification indispensable for dealing with the complexities of reality.

    But hopefully not an oversimplification. Any theory can turn into an ideology, become rigidified into a dogma, be twisted to hierarchical ends. A sophisticated ideology may be relatively accurate in certain respects; what differentiates it from theory is that it lacks a dynamic relation to practice. Theory is when you have ideas; ideology is when ideas have you. “Seek simplicity, and distrust it.”

    Avoiding false choices and elucidating real ones

    We have to face the fact that there are no foolproof gimmicks, that no radical tactic is invariably appropriate. Something that is collectively possible during a revolt may not be a sensible option for an isolated individual. In certain urgent situations it may be necessary to urge people to take some specific action; but in most cases it is best simply to elucidate relevant factors that people should take into account when making their own decisions. (If I occasionally presume to offer direct advice here, this is for convenience of expression. “Do this” should be understood as “In some circumstances it may be a good idea to do this.”)

    A social analysis need not be long or detailed. Simply “dividing one into two” (pointing out contradictory tendencies within a given phenomenon or group or ideology) or “combining two into one” (revealing a commonality between two apparently distinct entities) may be useful, especially if communicated to those most directly involved. More than enough information is already available on most issues; what is needed is to cut through the glut in order to reveal the essential. Once this is done, other people, including knowledgeable insiders, will be spurred to more thorough investigations if these are necessary.

    When confronted with a given topic, the first thing is to determine whether it is indeed a single topic. It’s impossible to have any meaningful discussion of “Marxism” or “violence” or “technology” without distinguishing the diverse senses that are lumped under such labels.

    On the other hand, it can also be useful to take some broad, abstract category and show its predominant tendencies, even though such a pure type does not actually exist. The situationists’ Student Poverty pamphlet, for example, scathingly enumerates all sorts of stupidities and pretensions of “the student.” Obviously not every student is guilty of all these faults, but the stereotype serves as a focus around which to organize a systematic critique of general tendencies. By stressing qualities most students have in common, the pamphlet also implicitly challenges those who claim to be exceptions to prove it. The same applies to the critique of “the pro-situ” in Debord and Sanguinetti’s The Real Split in the International — a challenging rebuff of followers perhaps unique in the history of radical movements.

    “Everyone is asked their opinion about every detail in order to prevent them from forming one about the totality” (Vaneigem). Many issues are such emotionally loaded tar-babies that anyone who reacts to them becomes entangled in false choices. The fact that two sides are in conflict, for example, does not mean that you must support one or the other. If you cannot do anything about a particular problem, it is best to clearly acknowledge this fact and move on to something that does present practical possibilities.

    If you do decide to choose a lesser evil, admit it; don’t add to the confusion by whitewashing your choice or demonizing the enemy. If anything, it’s better to do the opposite: to play devil’s advocate and neutralize compulsive polemical delirium by calmly examining the strong points of the opposing position and the weaknesses in your own. “A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; the point is to have the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!” (Nietzsche).

    Combine modesty with audacity. Remember that if you happen to accomplish anything it is on the foundation of the efforts of countless others, many of whom have faced horrors that would make you or me crumple into submission. But don’t forget that what you say can make a difference: within a world of pacified spectators even a little autonomous expression will stand out.

    Since there are no longer any material obstacles to inaugurating a classless society, the problem has been essentially reduced to a question of consciousness: the only thing that really stands in the way is people’s unawareness of their own collective power. (Physical repression is effective against radical minorities only so long as social conditioning keeps the rest of the population docile.) Hence a large element of radical practice is negative: attacking the various forms of false consciousness that prevent people from realizing their positive potentialities.

  23. grumpy cat says:

    Hi all,
    Ideology I think has at least two related and contradictory meanings. One is a relatively neutral term to denote a relatively coherent set of ideas. The other meaning (which is both more promising and problematic) is the idea that due to the separation of thinking and acting in class society ideas become alienated and reified over the society.
    If the later is the case how do we deal with ideology? The old trump card of Marxism, that it had access to “sound proletarian science”: that is knowledge that was not ideology is obviously bunk. Ideology as such cannot be escaped on the terrain of thought. Only the movement against class society that in practice starts to break down the divisions between thought and activity can start to free us from ideology.
    That said there are ways of orientating our selves that either help or hinder such a movement. Helping would be engaging in activities that aid the development of such a movement: radical critique, the creation of spaces of democratic collectivity, the circulation of experiences of struggle, micro-political recreations of social life etc etc.
    And there are those that hinder such a movement or reinforce ideology. These would be efforts that see struggle as being subordinate to a series of ideas that arrive from some magical space outside. Both Leninism and Anarchism (i contend, in a cavalier way) most often do just this. Leninism makes it explicit and turns it into a virtue.
    Both try to recruit people to either parties, projects or circles on the basis of the shininess of their ideology. As much as ideologies arise from and constitute part of lived experience they often contain a great deal of appeal. Perhaps in moments of apparent social peace ideology is all you can really have?
    But of course those that gather together under labels such as anarchist or Leninist are not free from the antagonisms that constitute the material conditions of capitalism. They too are caught up in struggle. Indeed when struggles really kick off we often see the way that ideologies melt and people move into the new collectivities of struggle – and how some then carry out a disciplining process to force people back into ideology and loyalty to the group.
    Also people may engage in effect radical action under any name, and may use theoretical concepts from ideologies that I may personally find distasteful. Hence i think we need to go beyond debating ideologies (on the Left) and rather discuss and analyse the content of political sequences.
    Like Knabb i think we do have to spend a lot of time negating the various ideologies of power.
    The virtue of the various spaces that are called anarchist in Australia is their lack of cohesion which means often the power of ideology is weakened and these spaces are more porous to actual struggles. However my experience of formal anarchist groups is that they are most often both ideological and mainly focused on critiquing Leninism.

    Stand out exceptions would be the Mutiny collective, who i think are ace.

    rebel love

  24. Lumpen says:

    Hey Dave,

    If you’re talking of Leninist groups, really you can only mean Socialist Alternative, don’t you think? The Melbourne Uni soviet is such a complete irrelevance these days that they don’t get a mention in conversational circles. Unless you’re a student, they just don’t come up as a problem. They run in student elections on insane platforms (we’re going to stop war and racism if I become Activities officer!) and sell magazines. Big whoop. There’s not much to bitch about.

    What you describe, Dave, doesn’t reflect my experiences in anarchist groups at all. In fact, most of the activity I’ve been involved in seems to be just keeping the resources going for when there is an upswing in activity. Not very exciting, a little bit boring.

    The “lack of cohesion” is a conscious act that we spend a lot of time and effort making sure happens. The occasional “porous” state is a deliberate and desirable outcome, not a happy accident.

  25. grumpy cat says:

    hi all
    Lumpen: if that is the case great. I am starting to feel that perhaps my generalisations might be coming apart at the seams… Perhaps from my place of relative isolation i am just expressing sour grapes from ages past? Still i feel it has some validity…
    rebel love

  26. @ndy says:

    A few more points:

    The claims of Marxism to being a science, as opposed to an ideology, were always dubious, but more so given that in subsequent experiments the subject (the proletariat) was often brutally hacked to pieces in order to fit the scientician’s (Lenin’s) vision (not to mention that a proletarian science, for a whole host of reasons, is unlikely to be developed by the bourgeoisie). That aside…

    Dave writes: “due to the separation of thinking and acting in class society ideas become alienated and reified over the society”.

    Maybe so, although I’m not sure I fully understand this formulation. So: I can understand how it might be considered that a ‘gap’ exists between ‘thought’ and ‘action’; further, how this phenomenon may in turn be considered in some way the result of alienation, especially the alienation of the worker in a capitalist society (one based on the separation of labour and capital). One of the questions that immediately occurs to me, however, is: is this phenomenon a product of capitalist (class) society, or is it in fact a necessary part of the human condition? In other words, is what is being demanded — that is, the reconciliation of thinking and acting, thought and activity, being and doing (something which may (or may not) result from “the movement against class society”) — actually possible? I think it’s quite possible to imagine that it’s not. Alternatively, that this reconciliation has, in fact, many dimensions, both individual and collective. Further, that it’s perhaps the case that overcoming capitalism (the divide between capital and labour) merely resolves one, particular, ‘ideological’ contradiction, not all potential such divisions between thought and action.

    So, speaking in fairly general terms, what’s the nature of the anarchist project, and how may it be distinguished from the Leninist one? As I see it, “radical critique, the creation of spaces of democratic collectivity, the circulation of experiences of struggle, micro-political recreations of social life” — assuming Dave and I have a reasonably similar understanding of the meaning of these terms — is not that far removed from what I would describe as being the proper content of anarchist movement. Whereas, a central tenet of Leninist ideology is the construction of a revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat, the principal task of which is to lead the proletariat to revolution and to thereby establish a dictatorship of the proletariat…

  27. vents says:

    Dave I also am wondering if you could explain this separation of ‘thought’ and ‘action’ as this idea is unfamiliar to me and seems kind of vague in those terms. I don’t really see how you can have positive or self-interested action without some forethought and at least some basic assumptions and ideas about life and maybe even morals if you like. To me we’re already drifting into ‘ideology’.

    Could you give some objective examples of the ‘reification’ between action and thinking please? And how this separation would be resolved?


  28. Lumpen says:

    Holy crap, this post is giving me flashbacks to Love&Rage reading circles. If anyone mentions Negri I’m going to cry.

    I’ve never understood what “reify” means. It sounds very sciency, though. I thought by definition you can’t reify “action”, because it isn’t an abstraction. In the Marxist sense it gets used in even weirder ways.

    As long as I get to wear my black hoodie, reify away.

  29. @ndy says:

    Return of the son of a few more points:

    “Ideology as such cannot be escaped on the terrain of thought. Only the movement against class society that in practice starts to break down the divisions between thought and activity can start to free us from ideology.”

    Perhaps ideology as such cannot be escaped on any terrain, even in the movement against class society — a movement whose existence is far from self-evident. And to the extent one is unable to determine its features or chart its progress, it may as well be left to its own devices. ‘The movement’, in other words, becomes that thing, over there maybe, or maybe over there, but not something in which ‘we’ participate consciously. No ideas “arrive from some magical space outside” either ‘the struggle’ or the social space and history we inhabit; nor, as I understand it, is this the problem — or the only problem — for either Leninism or Anarchism. But again, Leninism, as I understand it, also depends on there being a distinction between working class consciousness and bourgeois science. The role of the Leninist part-ay is to gather together the ‘best’ and the ‘brightest’ to form a political vanguard — a collection of individuals whose relationships are structured along ‘democratic centralist’ lines — one which acts, in turn, as a kind of catalyst in a revolutionary chain reaction. Anarchism, on the other hand, rejects the notion of a vanguard in this sense…

    “Also people may engage in effective radical action under any name, and may use theoretical concepts from ideologies that I may personally find distasteful. Hence i think we need to go beyond debating ideologies (on the Left) and rather discuss and analyse the content of political sequences.”

    Any name? Taken to its logical extreme, one might argue that there is, in fact, no relationship at all between the ideas in one’s head and the possibilities for engaging in radical action. This would also have the effect of placing the potentiality for such action in “some magical space outside” human consciousness. In other words, one moves from one extreme to the other — revolution as science to revolution as alchemical process.



    It’s hot.

    I haven’t had enough sleep.

  30. dj says:

    As far as I understand it, reification is when abstract ideas or concepts are treated as if they were actually living and existing things.

  31. grumpy cat says:

    Hi all…

    Reification i think simply means “thing-ification” and normally is used to argue how some thing is alienated from something, raised above it and turned into a concrete abstraction.

    I have been pretty torn since writing that last substantial post because i no longer think i agree with it. I find ideology a real useful but fragile tool – it starts to fall apart after too much use. I think Andy’s objections are pretty spot on. Does ideology only make sense if you believe that there is some other kind of objective reality or struggle that at the moment is simply a matter of faith?

    Maybe the post-structuralist use of subjectivity is more robust even if it has less utopian promise?

    But what does this all mean in relationship to how revolutions relate to knowledge, struggles, political demarcations and agency?

    Just had a quick smoke and realise that actually i don’t know… i think that my above posts are based on a mythical notion of wholeness that i can’t really agree with…

    I really wish we had some other space apart from blogs to nut these questions out together.

    rebel love

    ps will try to come back to this soon…

  32. @ndy says:

    A Dictionary of Marxist Thought:

    The act (or result of the act) of transforming human properties, relations and actions into properties, relations and actions of man‑produced things which have become independent (and which are imagined as originally independent) of man and govern his life. Also transformation of human beings into thing‑like beings which do not behave in a human way but according to the laws of the thing‑world. Reification is a ‘special’ case of ALIENATION, its most radical and widespread form characteristic of modern capitalist society…

    Despite the fact that the problem of reification was discussed by Marx in Capital, published partly during his life time, and partly soon after his death, which was generally recognised as his master work, his analysis was neglected for a long time. A greater interest in the problem developed only after Lukács [1885–1971] drew attention to it and discussed it in a creative way, combining influences coming from Marx with those from Max Weber (who elucidated important aspects of the problem in his analyses of bureaucracy and rationalization…) and from Simmel (who discussed the problem in The Philosophy of Money). In the central and longest chapter of History and Class Consciousness on ‘Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat’, Lukács starts from the viewpoint that ‘commodity fetishism is a specific problem of our age, the age of modern capitalism’… The essence of ‘commodity-structure’, according to Lukács, has already been clarified, in the following way: ‘Its basis is that a relation between people takes on the character of a thing and thus acquires a ‘phantom objectivity’, an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-embracing as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people’. Leaving aside ‘the importance of this problem for economics itself’ Lukács undertook to discuss the broader question: ‘how far is commodity exchange together with its structural consequences able to influence the total outer and inner life of society?’… He points out that two sides of the phenomenon of reification or commodity fetishism have been distinguished (which he calls the ‘objective’ and the ‘subjective’): ‘Objectively a world of objects and relations between things springs into being (the world of commodities and their movements on the market)… Subjectively — where the market economy has been fully developed — a man’s activity becomes estranged from himself, it turns into a commodity which, subject to the non-human objectivity of the natural laws of society, must go its own way independently of man just like any other consumer article.’ Both sides undergo the same basic process and are subordinated to the same laws. Thus the basic principle of capitalist commodity production, ‘the principle of rationalization based on what is and can be calculated‘ extends to all fields, including the worker’s ‘soul’, and more broadly, human consciousness. ‘Just as the capitalist system continuously produces and reproduces itself economically on higher levels, the structure of reification progressively sinks more deeply, more fatefully and more definitively into the consciousness of man’.

  33. Lumpen says:

    I think the problem is that I look for consistency where none exists; you see one trot use it one way, the other uses it another way. I guess wild variation of terms is a problem in all specialised fields.

    Just had a quick smoke and realise[d] that actually i don’t know… i think that my above posts are based on a mythical notion of wholeness that i can’t really agree with…

    Quote of the day!

  34. grumpy cat says:

    some drunken thoughts on the matter at hand.

    the way we think is profoundly determined by the material reality we exist in; material reality forms and is formed by (in part) how we think.

    the material reality of capitalism involves at least the reification of human activity into alienated forms, the manifold forms of power and control necessary to maintain capitalism and countless antagonisms.

    thinking is thus endlessly fractured- both in ways that reinvest in capitalist forms and those that pose the possibility of a radical other.

    revolutionary activity emerges within-beyond-and-against this material reality.

    revolutionary activity can, in practice, actually work to reinvigorate capital.

    the temptation of revolutionary activity, driven by the unbearable nature of capitalism, is to appear as effective and coherent as possible. this often involves taking up modes of activity that ‘make sense’ to the spectacle – such as ideology. this making sense can lead however to the recuperation of struggles and the strengthening of our alienation.

    yet revolts can reignite whole elements of life that otherwise seem to have no revolutionary nature…

    thoughts trail out here… going to dance around the anarchist infoshop that is next to my bed room instead…

    much much rebel love

  35. grumpy cat says:

    Hi all… thanks for reminding me @ndy that i really have to finish reading History and Class Consciousness. Lukács – so problematic… a lot awesome but still kind of crap…

  36. juancastro says:

    RE news from Venezuela: How to express the fucking tragedy of anarchists being killed by socialists in a world where anyone on the revolutionary left is already part of such an extreme minority.

  37. grumpy cat says:

    More on ideology

    Hi Comrades
    I have been reading Zizek on the question of ideology. He seems to say that ideology is not simply the false veil of ideas that covers the reality of the system but rather the forms of belief that exists within daily life that allow it to continue…

    rebel love

  38. dj says:

    Ah, but if we all drink a popular multinational caffeinated beverage, everything will be fine.

  39. vents says:

    Mecca Cola? *prays 5 times*

  40. Lumpen says:

    Re: Norm’s initial comments. Just to get back on track, it is true that Chavez was seeking the ability of back-to-back re-elections, analogous to Australian elections (though not the same in some important ways, obviously). The questions anarchists would typically ask is not whether it is common, but whether it is more or less democratic.

    I think there are far more compelling arguments to oppose Chavez, though.

    PS I’m fairly confident that Zizek would drink Fuse Cola. It has an APPLE BASE for fuck’s sake. You just don’t get more revolutionary than that. Think about it. Or, as Zizek would say, ” I saw Die Hard once.”

  41. vents says:

    Fuse Cola, eh? Never seen it. Sounds proletarian enough for me, though. Perhaps even more so then AC Cola. LA Ice is bourgeois but.

  42. @ndy says:


    Anything that’s touched the lips of Rosario Dawson, count me in.

    Gossip on leftist_trainspotters on James Petras, a Chavez supporter and frequent contributor to the SA/DSP/Resistance press, is that he’s accused a number of groups on the left in Venezuela of acting on behalf of the CIA in order to defeat the referendum. In fact, not just that they were dupes, but that they were paid to do so. In response, the PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers’ Party or Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado) in Brazil has authored an ‘Open letter to James Petras’, accusing him of slander. My Portuguese is only a little worse than my Spanish, but here it is:

    Carta aberta a James Petras
    Sobre suas declarações depois do referendo constitucional na Venezuela
    Eduardo Almeida Neto e José Maria de Almeida, pela direção do PSTU

    The PSTU is, in turn, affiliated to (yet) another Fourth International: the International Workers League (LITCI)… and on its website — ta-da! — there’s an English translation of the ‘Open letter’:

    Open letter to James Petras
    On his statement after the constitutional referendum in Venezuela

    Professor Petras,

    We became acquainted with your statement to Radio Centenario CX36 of Uruguay, reproduced by the media of that country to the effect that the PSTU of Brazil, a party of which we are militants and leaders, in Venezuela works together with “students financed by imperialism”. You then added, “we already have documents of the agency of international aid where they admit giving 213,000 dollars [to] students trained in the United States, who return and sow struggle in the streets, etcetera, it is with these people, affiliated to the PSTU, that the Trotskyist[s] work”. In other words, you are accusing our party, the PSTU, of being “counterrevolutionary” and of being financed by … American imperialism.

    We find such accusations to be shocking. We, the Trotskyists, are quite often accused by Stalinists or their allies, of being “agents of the CIA” every time we attack a bourgeois government that they regard as “[progressive]”. Anyhow, we thought it necessary to make sure your statement was what it is said to be for, as we have done some activities together, you know us quite well, and you know that we are a revolutionary trend. That is why, before writing this letter we got in touch to confirm the news and you promptly confirmed it…

    The rain in Spain in 1937 is is now falling in Venezuela in 2007…

    See also:

    Diagnosing the Chavez Referendum Defeat
    James Petras
    December 7, 2007

    …Each sector of the right-wing led counter-reform coalition focused on distinct and overlapping groups with different appeals. The US focused on recruiting and training student street fighters channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars via AID and NED for training in ‘civil society organization’ and ‘conflict resolution’ (a touch of dark humor?) in the same fashion as the Yugoslav/Ukrainian/Georgian experiences.

    The US also spread funds to their long-term clients – the nearly defunct ‘social democratic’ trade union confederation – the CTV, the mass media and other elite allies. FEDECAMARAS focused on the small and big business sectors, well-paid professionals and middle class consumers. The right-wing students were the detonators of street violence and confronted left-wing students on and off the campuses.

    The mass media and the Catholic Church engaged in fear mongering to the mass audience. The social democratic academics preached ‘NO’ or abstention to their progressive colleagues and leftist students. The Trotskyists split up sectors of the trade unions with their pseudo-Marxist chatter about “Chavez the Bonapartist’ with his ‘capitalist’ and ‘imperialist’ proclivities, incited US trained students and shared the ‘NO’ platform with CIA funded CTV trade union bosses. Such were the unholy alliances in the run-up to the vote.

    In the post-election period this unstable coalition exhibited internal differences. The center-right led by Zulia Governor Rosales calls for a new ‘encounter’ and ‘dialogue’ with the ‘moderate’ Chavista ministers. The hard right embodied in ex-General Baduel (darling of sectors of the pseudo-left) demands pushing their advantage further toward ousting President-elect Chavez and the Congress because he claimed “they still have the power to legislate reforms”! Such, such are our democrats! The leftist sects will go back to citing the texts of Lenin and Trotsky (rolling over in their graves), organizing strikes for wage increases… in the new context of rising right-wing power to which they contributed…

  43. @ndy says:

    Speaking of reification…

    Reification in the 21st Century
    Lukacs’ Dialectic – the First Hundred Years
    David Black

  44. vents says:

    It’s pronounced “Loo-kash”

    *looks smugly around the room*

  45. Dr. Cam says:

    I prefer Lukacs’ Dianetics.

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