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Building Socialism in Venezuela

Thursday 24 November 2005, by Marta HARNECKER

The Utopia of Participatory Democracy

The revolution is fighting to establish new forms of government. In many cities and towns, the community takes on several tasks with resources from the council. On the negative side, although the new constitution has created excellent conditions for the participation of the people, these ideas are not always implemented correctly. The Local Councils of Public Planning (CLPP), where the community were to have 50%-plus-one membership to control a certain portion of the budget, remain weakened because of the difficulty of bringing together a citizen’s assembly in a geographic area inhabited by thousands of people. With the grassroots unorganised, it remains difficult for the CLPP as an expression of the people to be truly representative.


Facilitating popular participation helps create a new generation of leaders. However, there is a problem within the MVR [Chavez’s party], which is a ‘majoritarian’ party that is not really very generous. The problem is not so much in the top leadership, who understand the necessary of creating spaces for their allies, but because there are many groups within the MVR competing for control. For a while after the referendum it appeared that the UBEs [Units for Electoral Battle], a brilliant form of organisation, could have been transformed into a political where the people would have been those working in the grassroots. Unfortunately, the conditions were not there. The process will probably be much longer although it is already clear that a new generation of leaders is imposing themselves. In the meantime, Chavez is looking for mechanisms to substitute for that deficiency. He is the clear conductor of this process and that is why the threat of assassination is real. However, the people are not waiting for the leader to deliver them a present. They are auto-affirming themselves.

Marta Harnecker is originally from Chile where she participated in the revolutionary process of 1970-1973, She now lives in Caracas where she is an advisor to the government.