Hugo Chavez’s Social Democratic Agenda
By Stephen Lendman
02/23/07 “ICH” — — Hugo Chavez Frias was reelected by an overwhelming nearly two to one margin over his only serious rival on December 3, 2006 giving him a mandate to proceed with his agenda to build a socialist society in the 21st century on a Bolivarian model designed to meet the needs of the current era in Venezuela and Latin America overall. Chavez first announced his intentions on January 30, 2005 at the Fifth World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and his people affirmed they want him to proceed with it in his new term to run until December, 2012.
Chavez wants to build a humanistic democratic society based on solidarity and respect for political, economic, social and cultural human and civil rights, but not the top-down bureaucratic kind that doomed the Soviet Union and Eastern European states. He said he wants to build a “new socialism of the 21st century….based in solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality” as opposed to the neoliberal new world order model based on predatory capitalism exploiting ordinary people for power and profit that’s incompatible with democracy. Newly appointed Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte expressed Washington’s concern about the challenge to its hegemony in his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing saying Chavez’s “behavior is threatening to democracies in the region (because he exports a form of) radical populism.” He didn’t mention how glorious it is.
He also never explained Venezuelans voted for it and love it and so do people throughout the region wanting what Venezuelans now have. Since first taking office in February, 1999, Chavez radically transformed the country from one of power and privilege to a participatory democracy governed by principles of political, economic and social equity and justice. He now wants to advance his social democratic agenda well into the new century, and his landslide electoral victory empowers him more than ever to do it. Like a true democrat, he intends to serve his people and deliver what they asked for.
Chavez began his new term with the formation of a new unity party called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to “construct socialism from below,” built “from the base” in communities, patrols, battalions, squadrons, neighborhoods “to carry out the battle of ideas for the socialist project (to) build Venezuelan socialism.” He wants it to be an “original Venezuelan model” to become the most democratic in Venezuela’s history and include a coalition of many smaller parties along with his former Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) party that completed its work and “must now pass into history.”
In December, 23 parties joined with the MVR to reelect Chavez, including three major ones that can add strength and credibility to the PSUV – For Social Democracy (PODEMOS), Homeland For All (PPT), and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV). The inclusion of all or most allied parties in the new PSUV will be a step toward building a foundational unity to address the agenda ahead – building 21st century socialism using state revenues to benefit people in new and innovative ways. Chavez wants to reform the constitution, eliminate a two-term presidential limit, and institute new progressive changes giving more power to people at the grass roots the way democracy should work.
He also wants to transform the country’s economic model believing it’s “fundamental (to do) if we wish to build a true socialism (therefore) we must socialize the economy (including the land and create) a new productive model.” He wants all proposed changes submitted to popular referendum so Venezuelans decide on them, not politicians. That’s how it should be in a participatory democracy from the bottom up Chavez says must “transcend the local framework (to achieve) “a sort of regional federation of Communal Councils.” There are 16,000 of them already organized across the country dealing with local issues, each with 200 – 400 families, and that number is expected to grow to 21,000 by year end 2007. “They are the key to peoples’ power,” Chavez stressed, and he sees them as the embryo of a new state driven by the PSUV.
Communal Councils are central to Chavez’s plan for people empowerment. They were created in April, 2006 with the passage of the Communal Council Law. Once fully in place and operational, they’ll represent true participatory democracy unimaginable in the US now governed from the top down by authoritarian rule allowing no deviation from established policies people have no say on and often don’t know exist.
Councils work the opposite way. They’re to deal with all community issues in local umbrella groups addressing matters of health, education, agriculture, housing and all other functions handled up to now by Social Missions and Urban Land Committees. They represent grass roots democracy in action giving them muscle and meaning and are administered by the Intergovernmental Fund for Decentralization that will distribute $5 billion to them in 2007 or more than triple the $1.5 billion allocated in 2006. Additionally, Chavez hopes $7 billion more will be put in the Venezuelan National Development Fund for industrial development use.
These are dramatic examples of two nations going opposite ways. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez supports free expression, social democracy, and using state revenues to insure and improve both. In the US, both parties support wealth and power, are jointly running a criminal enterprise masquerading as legitimately elected government, scorn the law and constitutional freedoms, are heading the country toward despotism in a national security police state conducting wars without end, and want to rule the world including its oil-rich parts inside Venezuela’s borders.
In Venezuela, people live freely in peace and their lives are enhanced. In the US they’re threatened by state-sponsored terrorism and harsh repression against anyone challenging state power. The majority finds its welfare eroding under a system of authoritarian rule keeping a restive population in line it fears one day no longer will tolerate being denied essential services so the country’s resources can be used for imperial wars, tax cuts for the rich and outrageous corporate welfare subsidies for boardroom allies in turn supplying politicians with limitless cash amounts in a continuing cycle of each side feeding the other so they benefit at our expense with growing numbers left out entirely now suffering terrible neglect and abuse. If able to choose, imagine what type government and leader they’d want. Venezuelans have it under Hugo Chavez and are blessed for it. It’s about time Americans got treated as well.
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