Friday, September 23, 2005

Snapshots from Venezuela

Events continue apace in Venezuela, with those of us stationed down here in the South Seas forced to use the internet and the occasional item in the offline media to keep track. It is interesting that in recent weeks the changes that Venezuela is experiencing have begun to receive some attention from New Zealand's mass media, courtesy of largely commendatory but not particularly analytical articles by Johann Hari and Wynne Dwyer in the New Zealand Herald. Here, in no particular order, are links to some other Venezuela-related material that I've found interesting:

The occupation of closed-down factories continues, with a Heinz ketchup plant and the Polar Maize processing plant being taken over by groups of former employees, with the apparent approval of the government. Venezuela's Attorney General appears nervous, however.

Idle farmland has been another target for occupation and nationalisation. To date, far more farms have been occupied than nationalised, or even slated for nationalisation. A summary of the work of the National Lands Institute - a body which some peasants' groups condemn for its slow progress in approving nationalisation - can be found here.

As one might expect, many members of Venezuela's bourgeoisie are less than chuffed with all these takeovers of private property, even if some of them seem cowed into silence, or at least more muted criticism, by the immense popularity of the measures.

Land reform is a project being undertaken in the cities, as well as the countryside, as this report on the first meeting of the United Land Committees delegates shows. The co-operatives at work renewing the barrios in the big cities resemble some of the agricultural co-ops and collective farms that have already been established on occupied and nationalised land in the countryside.

How can we make sense of these changes, and the wider phenomenon of what is increasingly being called the 'Bolivarian socialist revolution'? Anyone wanting to try to answer this question ought to read the fascinating first-hand accounts of recent visits to Venezuela by Ramon Samblas and Josh Saxe. I'll give my own answer in a later post.


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