Congratulations to Socialist Worker on the excellent article and interview on Venezuela (Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution, 12 November). The revolutionary process there is of vital importance, not just for Latin America, but for all those who oppose neo-liberalism.
But I’m not sure I agree with the optimism of Michael Lebowitz’s conclusion that the state sector can replace capitalism without confrontation.
Hugo Chavez’s ideology is Bolivarianism, not socialism. His aims are national independence and raising the cultural and economic level of the population. This is hugely progressive, but not the same as common ownership and control of the means of production.
In fact the more sensible among the Venezuelan bourgeoisie are beginning to realise that the government’s policies of development offer the opportunity for profit. The theme of a major business conference in Caracas in October was “The role of private enterprise in 21st century socialism”.
Chavez also met with Fedecamaras, the business organisation that led the coup of April 2002, and assured them that property rights would be respected. The minister for planning has recently called for a huge expansion of private investment.
Simply surviving and making improvements to the conditions of the poor, against the opposition of the elite and the US, has been a major achievement for the Chavez government. But by comparison with the reforms of the 1945 Labour government in Britain, progress is very slow.
Everything is still to play for in Venezuela. The danger is that if the masses do not confront capitalism then, just as in South Africa, some but not all will enjoy the fruits of political freedom.
Finn Brennan, North London
The Bolivarian republic of Venezuela is a progressive state whose institutions have been built upon the blood, tears and aspirations of the workers, peasants and poor of the country.
But to fulfil and secure the aspirations and rights gathered in the Bolivarian constitution, the Bolivarian republic will have to overcome resistance from the oligarchy by taking away their economic power.
The Bolivarian state is now reflecting the pressure of the revolutionary social class by challenging the sacrosanct rights of private property over the means of production. Land and factories have been expropriated. Cooperative farms and enterprises have been implemented under different forms of workers control.
The objective and subjective conditions in Venezuela are ripe for its socialist transformation. If this happens the consequences would be profound, opening up immense possibilities for a change of paradigm on a world scale.
Pablo M Roldan, South London
Michael Lebowitz is right to focus on the question of workers’ control over industry in his analysis of the Bolivarian revolution. The fate of the revolutionary process in Venezuela will ultimately be decided on the streets and in the factories of the country.
A recent meeting held in Venezuela saw representatives from over 200 worker occupied factories across Latin America debate this issue.Several delegates argued for the extension of workers’ control, rather than co-management with bosses. This would mark a major step forward for the revolutionary process, putting the initiative in the hands of those at the base of society.
Lee Packard, Bradford
Help free the four
As Socialist Worker readers may know, four anti-capitalist activists in Uruguay are facing sedition charges after protesting against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement earlier this month (Four anti-capitalists held in Uruguay, 19 November).
The four protesters have been charged under a penal code article imported from the fascist Italy in the 1930s.
This matter has almost disappeared from the media here, but on Friday of last week we held another demonstration to demand the release of Carlos, Lilian, Ignacio and Fiorella.
These four activists are being held in prison for their ideas, and for the aims of their demonstration — to protest against George Bush and the FTAA agreement.
And these charges have been imposed under a left government which has sought to justify repressive police action.
Please send messages of support for our campaign to [email protected]
Marina Rivero, Montevideo, Uruguay
Effective and loyal
I have been a reader and supporter of Socialist Worker for over 20 years and used to be an SWP member. But I was shocked to see the report headed SWP’s clear verdict on the pensions deal (19 November).
As a PCS civil service trade unionist, I know and respect both the individuals mentioned in the report. They have been effective and loyal activists for over 20 years. They deserve better.
I was also surprised to read that the meeting had concluded there was a growing mood among PCS members against the deal. This is not my experience.
We all recognise that the deal is not perfect and we have more work to do. But publicly vilifying respected SWP and PCS executive members is not a good place to start.
Chris Hurley, Branch secretary, PCS Health and Safety Executive
Darwin can provide insights into the mind
Dominic Alexander is right to defend religion on the basis that it can be a catalyst for resistance and social change (Letters, 12 November).
It also gives insight into how many people still think and structure their lives.
However Dominic falls foul of the prejudice he wishes to avoid when he refers to evolutionary psychology as a “pseudo science”.
This apparently compares a discipline that — despite its faults — is based on established scientific methods of analysis, with the unsound arguments and precarious suppositions of “creationist science”.
Although they are often portrayed as apologists for social inequality, most evolutionary psychologists distance themselves from social Darwinism, racial eugenics and absolute genetic determinism.
In fact many of their conclusions can be used in the defence of the political left, since they suggest that early humans developed in mutually dependent groups where social divisions were relatively insignificant.
Moreover, these findings are in accordance with the conclusions of many prehistoric archaeologists and primatologists.
Incidentally, it is possible to recognise religious belief may also have an evolutionary basis, perhaps developing with the capacity for art and aesthetic enjoyment.
Jonathan Tipton, Preston
Labour ‘relaunch’ flops in Sheffield
The Labour Party has collapsed in its “socialist republic” heartland of Sheffield. A Labour councillor wrote in despair to disgraced former pensions minister David Blunkett appealing for help after a “near total collapse” of local branches.
It followed a “relaunch” meeting last month when only two party members turned up — fewer than the three councillors presiding over the meeting.
Blunkett has now been invited to be guest speaker at another meeting to revive attendance. They must be barking if they think Blunkett will inspire anybody.
Compare Labour’s dire state with the excitement and enthusiasm at recent Respect meetings with George Galloway, which have attracted up to 700 people.
A huge gulf now exists between Tony Blair and grassroots Labour members and supporters, who are overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq, council house privatisation, and the use of the market in the NHS and schools.
As the May local elections near, it’s clearer than ever that we have to go on the offensive and build Respect in Blunkett’s backyard.
Phil Turner, Sheffield
Telling it like it is on schools
I am a primary school teacher in South London. The book Tell It Like It Is: How Our Schools Fail Black Children has captured the attention of many in our branch of the National Union of Teachers.
It has been read by black and white teachers and has been bought in my school by teachers, support staff and parents.
The union branch and the black teachers’ group are now organising a public meeting in the new year. We hope to be able to provide some answers for the many questions this book raises.
Sara Tomlinson, South London
Detention and democracy
Other than racism, the reason for Turkey’s difficulties in becoming a full member of the European Union (EU) is its poor record on human rights.
The country’s record is indeed atrocious. But there have only been two brief periods in recent Turkish history when people could be detained for 90 days without being charged.
One was after the military takeover of 1971, the other after a coup in 1980. On both occasions the detention period was reduced when civilian government was restored.
Perhaps Turkey should take a principled democratic stand and refuse to join the EU under Tony Blair’s presidency.
Ron Margulies, North London
Images do not cause racism
Helen McConnell asks whether an exhibition of photographs featuring the Ku Klux Klan at a Glasgow Museum should be allowed or not (Letters, 19 November).
I think these possibly disturbing photographs should be exhibited. Photographs do not cause racism. Racism is power plus prejudice. It exists in the actions of bigots, not in static images.
And the idea that any photograph has a fixed meaning is wrong anyway. Different individuals may interpret the images in different ways. How do we know how people will actually respond?
In the interests of free speech, the exhibition should go ahead.
Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire
Cynical lies over Almos
Arms length management organisations (Almos) are taking over the running of thousands of council homes. They are being promoted around the country through cynical campaigns of lies.
We are always told that “this is not privatisation” and that these are “public sector companies”.
Now it emerges that Almo bosses are in secret talks with the treasury about taking over our rent accounts, moving Almos into the private sector, closing Almos to public funding.
Two London-based Almos have set up a for-profit joint venture company to bid for housing management and maintenance work that is being outsourced by a third London Almo.
We have had the mis-selling of private pensions, insurance and utility plans — and now we have the mis-selling of Almos as well.
Paul Burnham, North London
Which way for the SSP?
There is a tendency in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) to create illusions in the Scottish parliament by promoting detailed legislation which aims to bring about change by parliamentary means.
A good example is the SSP’s alternative to the council tax — detailed legislation costed down to the last penny which would still leave a substantial tax burden on workers.
It would be better to argue that local government should be funded entirely by business rates. We have the lowest business taxes in Europe.
Trying to achieve change through the Scottish parliament leads to passivity.
Mark Donaldson, Edinburgh