The Bolivarian Revolution
In Venezuela, neoliberal capitalism is not seen as ‘inevitable’, nor indeed is capitalism itself. President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias12 is against neoliberalism and imperialism. As he remarked in 2003:
In Venezuela, we are developing a model of struggle against neoliberalism and imperialism. For this reason, we find we have millions of friends in this world, although we also have many enemies (cited in Contreras Baspineiro 2003).
Chavez talks about globalizing socialism, rather than global capitalism:
Faced with the outrageous excesses of the powerful, our only alternative is to unite ... That’s why I call upon all of you to globalize the revolution, to globalize the struggle for ... freedom and equality (cited in Contreras Baspineiro 2003).
In January, 2007, the utilities sector and the country’s largest telecoms company were nationalized, and in May, 2007, Chavez took control of four major oil projects worth $30 billion (PDVSA, the state oil company has held majority control since 2005). Also in May, 2007, Venezuela pulled out of the IMF and the World Bank.
Venezuela’s only steel producer, SIDOR (Siderurgica del Orinoco), has, at the time of writing, been renationalised following an announcement by President Chavez in April 2008. Chavez has insisted that the workers must set up workers’ councils, and that SUTISS, the trade union representing workers at SIDOR, exercise a policy of workers’ control and management (Martin 2008). Juan Valor, the Press Secretary of SUTISS, stated that, with the renationalisation, 10,000 workers had been ‘liberated’, noted that ‘we know that our commitment with Venezuela, with the people and with President Chavez is even greater’. Oil, steel and cement have all been declared strategic industries, and according to the government’s economic and political programme, must be brought under public control (Venezuela Information Centre Update, April 24th 2008 info@ vicuk.org).
In July, 2008, Chavez announced that the Venezuelan Government will nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, the country’s third largest bank. Complementing the private management for achieving a ‘high level of efficiency’ in the bank, he made it clear that his administration plans to shift the bank’s priorities from profits to social investments. As he put it, ‘[t]he profit will not be of one group, but to invest in socialist development’ (cited in Venezuelanalyisis.com 2008).