Monday, July 11, 2016

Still on an extended break

This blog will one day be updated more regularly. This is certainly an interesting year for those who do blog given the global turmoil. I've been dealing with an extended medical crisis (a relative, not me) that has kept busy. Blogging is just not a personal priority for me. I am hoping in a few weeks that I can post a "big picture" essay that captures how I see things currently. If you weren't feeling the Bern, take cold comfort in knowing that neither was I. If you are leftist or left-leaning but did not like the politics of Brexit, consider yourself in good or bad company as the case may be. I wish I could say that I thought that there was an organized enough left to build a firewall against a rising right-wing nationalism in the US, Europe, and in the Global South. But I cannot, and it would be dishonest of me to suggest that such a firewall could be constructed in short order. To do so would take a level of pragmatism and trust that is simply nonexistent among a very fractured set of leftist parties and tendencies. Unless and until we can figure out how to put aside sectarian differences long enough to work together effectively, we will continue to wander aimlessly in the darkness. There are movements that give me hope in this otherwise bleak decade. Occupy had some modest successes before it fizzled. Black Lives Matter has been more substantial in its sustained contributions. We can learn a lot from the successes and failures of each of these movements while building a template for the sort of socialism that is necessary to take on the unique challenges of this century. Whether or not we will is another matter. Perhaps I can speak to that in the near future. In the meantime, I have more pressing personal matters to which I must attend.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day!

Sorry for the long time away from the blog. I needed an extended break. I am actually still on that extended break. I did want to mark the occasion and hope that you are remembering our international workers' day however you normally do. I've written a May Day post that I used to update yearly on both the old blog and this one. Feel free to follow the May Day label to read those. Whatever you do, stay active.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Biggest ever communist rally in India

The numbers sure seem impressive That said, the story goes on to highlight the need for recruiting younger activists - a troubling sign for that particular party.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Syriza as a Gramscian party in a non-Gramscian world?

That is one argument, anyway. Make of it what you will:

Gramsci argued that you can’t just conquer the state: instead, you have to take the trenches that are defending the state within civil society. And Syriza knew that: they were effectively founded on that understanding.

 But there are two differences. So what they came up with – via Poulantzas – is the idea of the disciplined democratic party and the independent mass movement. So the first thing that’s changed from the Gramscian world is that those mass movements are networked and don’t really want to articulate within the party. You never saw people outside Syriza’s HQ saying ‘please let us in! Please interact with the masses!’ Those networks, whether it’s Exarcheia, whether it’s the dockworkers, it’s not the same. That’s the first thing.

 The second thing is that the state has changed. The whole Gramscian problem was to answer the question: how do you avoid just attacking the state, and civil society rising up against you, as, for example, in Italy under fascism. The problem here is that the state doesn’t control the economy. The European Central Bank controls the economy. So, no matter how much of the state you take and no matter how many people you mobilise on the streets to help you, it doesn’t matter, because they can’t influence the ultimate power, which is Frankfurt and Brussels. I think that’s what I mean by the Gramscian party in a non-Gramscian world.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And now the real struggle begins

It appears that MUD did manage a simple majority in their parliament. That probably means that the country's right-wing can cause some minor inconveniences to Maduro's government over the next three years, but not much else. However, the clock is really ticking for Maduro and his allies ahead of the next Presidential election. If this isn't a wake-up call for the PSUV and its allies (and really the 2013 elections should have been), then I don't know what is.

Update - latest from teleSur indicates that MUD managed 109 seats and with three indigenous seats that usually form an alliance with MUD, have enough to command a super majority. Interesting times for Chavismo. That does mean the clock is ticking even more for Maduro, and I would expect a referendum for his removal is in the offing. For this particular phase of left-leaning government in Venezuela, the wake-up call was not heeded until far too late. I am sure there will be plenty of postmortem analyses. One likely one is that a lot of folks were fed up with what appeared to them to be incompetence, and fed up with shortages, etc. Although I am in the camp that considers Chavismo to be more positive than negative, the truth is, as I had made mention a few years earlier, that a lot of Chavismo, or 21st Century Socialism, amounted to little more than empty populism. Without a transformative change from the ground up, inevitably the PSUV would end up falling on hard times. I doubt MUD can do much to turn around a depressed economy, and will be as dependent upon oil exports as was the previous government with all that entails.

There is still an active left in Venezuela and elsewhere in South America. It is one that will benefit from ditching the strongman or caudillo model of leadership and moving to something considerably more "people powered".

And as we continue to wait:

This infographic explains what is needed for a majority in Venezuela's parliament (National Assembly), and the difference between a simple majority, 3/5 majority, and 2/3 majority. Basic upshot is that a simple majority cannot do much, which undoubtedly MUD, the opposition coalition, knows well. However, with a 3/5 majority (a qualified majority of 100 seats), MUD could take actions to remove ministers in the cabinet and the VP. With a 2/3 majority (full majority of 111 seats), MUD could make some serious constitutional changes and could take some actions that would lead to early Presidential elections. So, that tells you a bit of what is at stake. Also keep in mind that in theory, a party could have a majority of the popular vote, but given the way the parliamentary seats are distributed (in a way that actually gives rural areas disproportional power), still lack a majority in the parliament. If somehow, that last scenario unfolds, the PSUV would have dodged one heck of a bullet. I'd still repeat the same thing I said a couple years ago about it being a wake-up call yet again. And I'd expect that there would be significant violence in the streets to contend with as well.

While we're waiting official results, here's a blast from the past

On my old blog, back in April 2013, I wrote the following:

I've been following a live blog of the Venezuela election for much of the evening. The official results are in, and the Bolivarian Revolution continues. However, it was close: 50.66% for Maduro to 49.07% for Capriles. For now, there is some tentative hope that what was set in motion by Chavez will continue. That said, the ruling party really needs to get its act together. My impression, correctly or incorrectly, has been that the party has benefited largely from Chavez’s larger-than-life charisma. A lot of good has been done for the country’s 99%, but 21st Century Socialism needs to become more than a populist slogan if it is to have any staying power. These results are a wake-up call.

I have wondered aloud - probably not so much in the blogging world but in my daily life - whether the close Presidential election's wake-up call was actually heeded by the PSUV. Some of the forces affecting the people of Venezuela are largely out of their control: low oil prices are a disaster for a nation that is dependent on oil exports, for example. However, I have often thought that the PSUV could have been more effective in their efforts to socialize the economy, and really could have done more to get the word out regarding their plan for the nation going forward, as the slow global transition from petroleum products continues over the long term, and in the short term the oil glut remains a reality. In a socialist leaning country where there is a mixture of private and public sector services and industries, it is practically a given that the elites running the private sector will do everything in their power to crush any public-led initiatives. The public run grocery stores are a great idea, but the long lines to obtain needed supplies are not. That needs to change - and fast. I could gripe more, I am sure. But keep in mind that gripes aside, those most vulnerable in Venezuela on average have benefited tremendously over the last decade and a half-plus. I don't expect perfection, and Chavismo is far from perfect, but I do expect to see progress, and I can say that on that front the Bolivarian Revolution has given some tangible hope to those who might not have had it otherwise. Keeping that going will be a challenge going forward even if the PSUV kept its majority (a matter of which we shall soon know).