Friday, June 24, 2005


I wonder how many Venezuelans the US state is willing to murder in order to overthrow the populist Chavez government? Four thousand like in Chile, thirty thousand like in Argentina? Probably a lot more since the situation is far more difficult for the Gringos in Venezuela than either of these countries in the 1970's. But if they want a blood bath, they are going to wait a long time. Thankfully, this isn't 1973.

For one thing the level of popular support. Latest polls put support for Chavez at 70%, while the Chilean Unidad Popular of Allende, never got more than 45% of the votes. The US government was able to build Pinochet's coup on the basis of this opposition majority. Most important of all the army is on the side of the government, unlike in Chile. No doubt there are officers who would support a fascist rising, as some did in the last Gringo-sponsored coup, but not the military as a whole.

Furthermore, Chavez is both a miltary man and a populist. Latin American populism has never shied away from armed struggle - witness the populist revolutions in Costa Rica in 1948, Bolivia in 1952 and Chiapas in 1994 - and Chavez will not hesitate to arm the people should the Empire seek to impose its dictatorship. Salvador Allende, a social democrat in practice, if not in theory, instead sought to disarm the people and appease a right-wing controlled military.

Latin America as a whole is different today. Back in 1973, most governments south of the Rio Grande were right wing. Now they are left-wing populist and will be very angry at any attempt to overthrow a democratically elected progressive government. Last but not least, the Empire is suffering from imperial overstretch as its ill-fated attempt to subdue the Iraqi people has gotten nowhere. They can ill-afford a Latin American adventure.

This brings the question as to how libertarian socialists should deal with populist or revolutionary governments like that of Chavez. This question has been a sticky point for us, all the way back to the Russian Revolution. There are two traps which we seem to have habitually fallen into and hopefully avoid today. One position is to give full support to the revolutionary government and lose one's identity completely, like the anarchists and syndicalists who ended up in the Communist Party. The other position is to declare war on all governments, revolutionary or reactionary, and end up despised by the masses as counter-revolutionary. In this situation one ends up a tiny bitter sect without any influence. (1)

The correct position is to support the the mass of the population on an issue by issue basis, without becoming an actual supporter of the government itself. First loyalty is to the revolutionary movement and not to an ideology or government. Where the government aids the movement - for what ever reason - fine. Where the revolutionary government undermines that movement we are against it. Thus, one should support the popular movements initiated by the struggle against counter-revolution, and try to push these organizations as far as possible to an autonomist position. Where the revolutionary government radicalizes, we should radicalize further. Where the revolutionary government acts in an authoritarian manner against the popular forces we must actively oppose it. Thus, a position that is neither sycophantic nor seen as sectarian which aids the reactionaries. In a nutshell - we are for everything that improves the lives of the people and empowers them and against everything that harms them and enslaves them.

(1) Many years ago I told an activist friend that I was editing a collection of articles written by the Socialist Party of Canada. "Why on earth would you do that?" he asked. "I hate those people!" "All they ever do (all five of them) is come to our demonstrations and denounce everyone, if it was up to them people would never do anything." (I must point out that the tiny ultra-sectarian group in question was not the same as the SPC that I wrote about in The Impossibilists


Blogger Gazetteer said...

Thanks Larry.

I really learned something with that one.

10:07 PM  
Blogger ajohnstone said...

Perhaps it is because it is tiny that it perhaps demonstrates certain ultra sectarian attitudes and traits , many things need repeating and repeating over and over again especially to those who have lost the visionof the past .
But the politics of the SPC is very much that of the old SPC .
If the present SPC grew , it too would develop roots within the labour movement , but without endeavouring to use the unions as a springboard for its own advancement ,as Leninist and Trotskyist and , yes , even Anarchists have done .The SPC would maintain the autonomy of the unions by not imposing a particular political ideology upon the class struggle waged by the unions . Doing otherwise is true sectarianism , and much more dangerous than saying told you so all the time to members of the Left .

See link for the SPC web pages

11:50 AM  
Blogger wsp-pdx said...

The two incarnations of the SPC are not all that different in principle. If you believe the current SPC is a "Sect", then it's companion party the Socialist Party of Great Britain is one as well.

But the SPGB and the "old" SPC had much contact and exchange of members & ideas. Given the SPGB's (in)famous "hostility clause" against all other parties, it's obvious that the SPGB identified with the "old" SPC's principles and methods.

The "old" SPC gave the American "sect", the World (nee Workers') Socialist Party a page in the Western Clarion- so the "sectarians" were distributing the "old" SPC newspaper. Again this would be in violation of the "hostility clause" if they didn't identify with the "okd" SPC.

The only real difference between the "old" and "new" SPCs was that the Principles of the "old" SPC were writen independant of the SPGB and the "new" SPC adopted the SPGB's declairation of princples in entirety.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

There are differences in how one interprets theory. One can be rigid and dogmatic, or more open-minded. Certainly it is true that the SPGB and the old SPC saw eye to eye theoretically, but there was a difference in practice. The old SPC as a mass party had to be more flexible than the SPGB. Thus, the Vancouver local of the SPC did not support the 1912 miners strike, hewing to the hard parliamentary line, while the Naniamo branch actively supported it. Socialism was not limited to education and elections. A proto-syndicalist current existed within the SPC that would give rise to the OBU. I spent many hours reading the 1904-1916 Western Clarion to gather material for The Impossibilists and what impressed me most was how non-sectarian the publication could be. This is a marked difference to the post-1931 paper.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

A. Johnstone wrote "yes , even Anarchists have done'

Yes, as SOME anarchists have done, but not all of us, or even a majority of us. Certainly, the AIT unions are specifically anarchist in ideology but others like the IWW, CGT, etc. are not and are open to all working class ideologies. The idea that syndicalist unions must be ideologically anarchist, rather than uniting all workers regardless of ideology, is something I have always criticized.

9:01 AM  
Blogger wsp-pdx said...

There is some truth in your observations Larry, but I have seen evidence of some interesting work the WSPUS did in Detroit unions in the 1940s.

I don't know that much about SPC history in the period, but I do know most of the "new" SPC founders had been the "syndicalist" wing of the old-SPC, eg the founders of the OBU.

My question is how much material conditions effected the World Socialist perspective. After all, most "libertarian" marxist groupings were fairly sectarian and isolated in the 1930s period on. How much is because of approach, how much because of the times- the USSR, fascism, etc? If that is true, why the hard edge towards the SPC, SPGB, etc vs. the other groups in the libertarian marxist "camp"?

2:38 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Blogging Change
BCBloggers Code: Progressive Bloggers Site Meter