Topics‎ > ‎

Latin America


The Victory in Venezuela

posted 10 Oct 2012, 01:20 by heiko khoo

The re-election of President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela is a victory of world historic importance. Since Chávez was first elected in 1999, Venezuela has been transformed from an extreme form of capitalism into a semi-planned economy based on revolutionary democracy. This revolution radically improved the lives of the majority of the population and emboldened the forces for change throughout region.          

The new Venezuela provides free health care and education, subsidizes food and cheap housing, supports land redistribution and experiments in workers' control, and promotes an independent anti-capitalist media. This transformation is based on the nationalization of key sectors of the economy. The list of radical and progressive social and political reforms goes on and on.

Venezuela's efforts to improve the educational level of the masses have been truly impressive. One extraordinary program called "El Sistema", currently teaches over three hundred thousand children to play classical music instruments, in a collective learning environment. Their lead orchestra is now considered to be the most dynamic and exciting in the world. Although El Sistema predated the revolution, it is now directly supported by the state. Its success reveals the capacity to awaken and realize human potential.

It is not hard to imagine that the energy and enthusiasm of the masses can somehow be unleashed in a similar fashion, and that this could produce collaborative planning for their communities, and for society as a whole. This collective orchestra of the people would elevate the human spirit, and foster a sense of universal collectivity, participation and progress.

The politics of Hugo Chávez evolved from revolutionary democracy to socialism over the last 13 years. The decisive change occurred in April 2002, when a US backed coup-d'etat removed Chávez from office, and a revolutionary uprising brought him back to power.

In some ways, the most fortunate circumstances for socialist development exist in Venezuela, because it has the world's largest known reserves of oil. Oil finances the social programs called "missions" that have anchored reforms in the everyday lives of the people. Oil enabled Chávez to extend support to Cuba and to other leftward leaning political forces, all over the continent and beyond. Hilariously, Venezuela even provided support to the poor of the United States, through subsidies for heating oil in winter.

However, oil states are often riddled with corruption and a deformed economic structure, with the oil industry providing incredible wealth for a tiny elite, but leaving a huge proportion of the population in penury, eking out their existence in the informal economy. The problem of transforming this informal economy into formalized, integrated and organized societal power, is one of the most fundamental issues that has plagued the Venezuelan revolution.

Chávez often attempted to overcome this problem by appealing to revolutionary spirit and engagement; for example, he empowered local community councils to take command of resources and planning from the intermediate state administration, that had often blocked progress. In many cases, empowerment of the masses brought significant improvement, but conflicts between the people and the bureaucracy multiplied, and new structures produced new opportunities for mismanagement and corruption. This demoralized and alienated many grass-roots socialists who point to the phenomena of a corrupt "red-hat bureaucracy".

Another important attempt to overcome the tendency to informality, was to launch the mass membership United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) founded in 2007, but it often came to rely on military like mobilization as the means to attain its objectives. The strength of the PSUV can be seen in its capacity to galvanize supporters to vote and attend mass rallies, but this is distinct from the development of the productive capability of the economy and society.

The lack of long-term planning means that decision-making is eclectic, being based on reaction to the clash between state policy and market responses. This conflict often finds its expression in the form of sabotage by the middle and upper classes, and outbursts of anger by the workers and the poor. Venezuela's dual exchange rate (an official and black-market rate), price controls over foodstuffs, and similar measures, cannot act as a long-term substitute for technical, scientific and general development of the productive forces. The act of establishing effective planning mechanisms at the core of the economy, will help to identify the resources that need to be secured by nationalization or the development of new and expanded public enterprises.

When Chávez signed a US$42.5 billion financing plan with China in 2007, he said, "the world's second-biggest oil user, needs energy security and we're here to provide them with all the oil they need." The money is channeled through the China-Venezuela Joint Investment Fund. It was used to build the Simón Bolívar Satellite, it builds roads, railways, and houses for the masses, and it finances a range of major infrastructure, social development, energy, mining and agricultural projects. Chinese state-owned enterprises have been contracted to carry out key projects. China's involvement has acted as a powerful impetus towards adopting a more planned approach to Venezuela's economic development, which will produce a stronger and smoother trajectory of growth.

This collaboration was an important factor in ensuring that the revolutionary aspirations of Venezuela's leadership were turned into concrete development projects, rather than lost in the mire of bureaucratic corruption, that unfortunately, often hindered the implementation of infrastructure projects in the past. Hugo Chávez's revolution can now escape from the economic distortions caused by its oil dependence, and Venezuela can continue to act as a beacon of hope proving that another world is possible.

China can help and benefit from Cuba's reforms

posted 22 Sep 2010, 02:19 by Admin uk   [ updated 29 Apr 2011, 05:18 ]

(by Heiko Khoo originally published on China.org.cn) 

Cuban President Raul Castro and the Cuban Workers' Federation have announced a plan to reduce the state workforce by up to a million workers in the near future, signaling the start of profound changes. Cuban society is undoubtedly in need of radical reform. At present the state employs around 80 percent of the workforce and planning is supposed to control the entire economic system.

The Cuban government recognizes that the old system of bureaucratic planning does not work; the state employs ice-cream sellers, taxi drivers and hairdressers, branches of economy where private operations and incentives are normal and natural. Hairdressing is one of the oldest private professions in the world, at least 6000 years old, and private taxis have existed since the first horse drawn carriages. There is no rational argument for public ownership of these sectors.

The consequences of excessive nationalization have been a number of severe economic distortions. Rations of food and essentials supplement meager real wages; the result is that to secure elementary commodities people are compelled to turn to the black market. The black marketeers and corrupt officials collaborate to enrich themselves, parasitically stealing from the public. In many branches "people pretend to work and the state pretends to pay them". Lethargy sets in, which fosters support for reactionary forces, thus the young often look to the United States as the model of the good life.

On the other side, Cuba reveals the strengths of planned economies. In spite of the US embargo, Cuba has continued to surprise the world in its achievements in health, education and welfare. Compared to its meager per capita production, Cuba produces miracles in these sectors. With only $300 per capita spent on health care annually, Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to population in the world, 64 per 10,000.

If China wanted to catch up with Cuba's in this sphere, it would need about 8 million doctors and 11 million nurses, compared to 1.8 million doctors and 1.3 million nurses today (according to the World Health Organization.) The percentage of healthcare costs met by the state is over 95 percent in Cuba, as opposed to 55 percent in China. China’s total numbers of doctors and nurses is the highest in the world, and given the inputs, China’s achievements in healthcare since 1949 have been immense. But economic transformation has left general medical provision lagging behind. Many people are unable to afford the treatment or medicines they need, fostering anger and social discontent. With the Chinese government promoting basic healthcare for all, and trying to reduce social inequality, the speed of China’s social advance can be judged by how rapidly it reaches Cuban levels of healthcare provision.

Capitalist ideologues argue that health care is simply a black hole in the state budget; but the US government spends more than ten times as much on healthcare per capita as Cuba, yet with results that are only marginally better. In fact, where the private sector is permitted to plunder the state health service, colossal resources are wasted and public money is squandered for short-term benefits and private profit.

Fidel Castro sought to focus the technical and scientific resources of the Cuban nation on sustaining its healthcare model, and attaining breakthroughs in vaccines and medical sciences. The present scientific and technical revolution in medical care opens up extraordinary potential to those publicly funded healthcare systems that plan, develop and apply visionary ideas. In stem-cell research, biotechnology, genetic engineering and nanotechnology, revolutionary advances open up the possibility for the average healthy lifespan to reach 100yrs or more, in the foreseeable future.

Global research and development has been greatly promoted by the spread of communications technology and colossal advances in computing power. However, with multinational private companies dominating key domains of research and development, we face the danger that access to the results of the new sciences, will be rationed primarily by money. This can be prevented. With sufficient determination and support, Fidel Castro’s vision to transform Cuba into a world power in socialized medical science is realizable, and its healthcare model can bring immense benefits to the world.

China could easily meet all the consumer product needs of the Cuban people at low cost. This would alleviate many petty hardships for the Cuban people and undermine the inhumane and reactionary US blockade. When the USSR collapsed, the Cubans managed to survive without outside help; now both Venezuela and China are playing a big role in providing essential finance and support that permits Cuba to remodel its economy. The Cuban Communist Party wants to develop its economy while retaining public ownership of the commanding heights, and protecting the social benefits of the revolution. For China, with its booming economy, wealthy state enterprises, and colossal demand for quality socialized healthcare, there should be no limit to boldness in collaboration, investment and co-operation with Cuba.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:

http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/node_7084903.htm

Open letter to the workers of Venezuela

posted 14 Feb 2010, 23:31 by مازیار رازی   [ updated 14 Feb 2010, 23:38 by Admin uk ]

on Hugo Chávez’s support for Ahmadinejad
By: Maziar Razi
 

1-3 of 3

Comments