28 Jan 2010

'All power to the barrios!'

Another country trying to put Elinor Ostrom's vision of an economy and society based on grass roots collective property and decision making is Venezuela...just got this from Pablo...




The community revolution

While international debate focuses on President Chávez, institutions of popular democracy are taking root in Venezuela’s barrios. Pablo Navarrete introduces the importance of community councils, while Steve Ellner assesses their prospects for deepening the ‘Bolivarian revolution’

February 2009 marked ten years since Hugo Chávez took office in Venezuela, following a landslide election victory that swept the country’s traditional parties out of power. Since assuming the presidency, Chávez has presided over a controversial process of radical change, commonly referred to as the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ – after Simón Bolívar, who liberated Venezuela and much of South America from Spanish colonialism.

While hugely popular with many in Venezuela, Chávez’s policies and his outspoken criticisms of the US government have made him powerful enemies, both at home and abroad, especially in the media. Chávez has also polarised opinion on the global left, with a divide becoming visible between those who characterise him as authoritarian and others who stress the democratic nature of his government.

In Venezuela, the first years of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ saw Chávez speaking about combating ‘savage neoliberalism’ and searching for a more humane capitalism: a Venezuelan ‘third way’ as a solution to the severe socio-economic crisis that the government inherited.

However, the response that these measures provoked among Venezuela’s traditional elites and their allies in the US government led to the radicalisation of the process, and in early 2005 Chávez surprised his supporters and opponents alike when he publicly rejected capitalism as a model for Venezuela and spoke of the need to instead create a ‘21st-century socialism’.

Apart from debating what 21st-century socialism should and shouldn’t be – and insisting that it has to be original – nearly five years since Chávez called for its creation in Venezuela, what is the evidence that the country is moving in that direction?

This is one of the key questions I wanted to explore in my new feature-length documentary, Inside the Revolution: A journey into the heart of Venezuela. Filmed in the country’s capital, Caracas, in November 2008, the eve of the tenth anniversary of Chávez’s presidency, I wanted it to go beyond the simplistic mainstream media reporting on Venezuela that focuses virtually all developments in the country on the figure of Chávez, and instead provide a platform for the voices of the government’s grass-roots supporters who are driving the process forward.

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