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Venezuela’s cooperative movement, which has increased a thousand fold since President Hugo Chavez’s first election in 1998,  fosters development of the individual, but not “individualism”, through economic and social community building.  This change in human relations is essential to throwing off  the ideology and mechanism of capitalism which has so corrupted our human community.

In a recent article in www.venezuelanalysis entitled “Cooperatives in Venezuela Promote Solidarity, Equality and Dignity” (April 12, 2011), the radio collective, Radio Al Reves interviews some members of successful cooperatives currently active in Venezuela wherein cooperative members describe the impact of their cooperatives on their lives.

In the words of a cooperative member, Gustavo Salas:

Development of the individual but not of individualism, which are two different things.  There is a saying that goes: we are not individualists nor are we collectivists, because we are trying to develop a collective environment where we are growing all of the time, and each of us developing as people. It’s a balance that’s not easy. You have to continually build it.

While the United States is “enjoying” the benefits of Ayn Randian “individualism”—the increasing impoverishment of its citizens while the wealthy few loot the labor, savings, and tax money of the majority, Venezuela is increasing not only the standard of living of all its citizens, but vastly increasing the ability of individuals to acquire new productive skills , develop leadership capacities.  The Venezuelan cooperative movement is bringing important changes in the workers' social relationships with each other and with their communities.

In the last thirty years, many of the top economic officials in the U.S., such as former head of the banker-controlled Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, enamored by Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” sociopathic philosophy that the masses of people are fungible scum to be subjugated by the most successfully ruthless in industry and commerce,  put Rand’s pernicious philosophy into practice by de-regulating virtually all government controls over greed and exploitation on the part of financial institutions and corporations while at the same time defunding programs which aid individual development and develop social cohesion.

The Randist neo-conservatives, such as the Koch brothers and their henchmen,  seek to abolish programs which foster the free development of individuals, such as trade unions, social welfare for the poor, non-debt based scholarships for students,  and government investment in infra-structure which creates jobs and job-training programs.  

In the name of their twisted concepts of free markets and free trade, these putative Nietzschean capitalist supermen use their enormous wealth to buy our politicians and pass self-serving legislation which legalizes their looting.  Their corporately owned media works 24 hours a day to indoctrinate voters into believing that capitalism is the only system that can create “freedom for all”. The result is that Kris Kristofferson’s lyric “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” has been made flesh for millions of Americans.

Venezuelan socialism is opening a different path.  Freedom, in the context of Venezuela’s eqalitarian cooperative movement, has been made real based on the free association of  workers, who share the ownership of the means of production and the decision-making in order to produce socially needed goods for sale.  In general, all of the workers are paid equally for their labor from the profits, albeit those who work more hours or with mutually recognized intensity, generally receive extra benefits after all the expenses of the cooperative and the regular salaries have been paid.

Ciro Ramos de Rodriguez is a textile worker in the coastal Miranda State east of Caracas.  She is one of 42 women who produce clothes such as school and government uniforms, for her cooperative, MUDEBAR.  Here she talks to Radio Al Reves about how MUDEBAR started in 2005:

In reality, we didn't have money or anything until the government offered us credit so that we could achieve our objective, which was to associate ourselves as a cooperative.  The process was a call made by the government to participate in a social mission called Vuelvan Caras, a call to all the women who were in their houses without work, simply doing domestic work, doing housework until god called, watching our grandchildren and taking care of the house and when all of the women were called to the mission we began taking the courses. We took really good courses, and from that they prepared us to become a cooperative...

I learned a lot. I am now in the third year of my bachelors degree and I am treasurer of the cooperative. With the help of the professionals that the government sent here, I have learned everything I need to know such as accounting, how to keep books how to control an account, how to write checks. This is something that poor people didn't know how to do, this is something that rich people did, but poor people we didn't know how to do any of this.  I learned how to do many things that businesses do that I didn't know how to do before.

Ms. Ramos compares her work in the cooperative with working for a private company:

In a private company the boss exploits workers. The worker is exploited and the boss earns for themselves.  Lets say I was working at a private company and I worked very fast, I would still continue earning the minimum wage. In a cooperative if I worked very productively I could make more money, but in a private company I have to maintain myself with the minimum wage. So even though I would push myself to work very hard, the boss would make lots of money and I would make one or two percent while they would take 98 percent from my effort and from my sweat. In a cooperative, no. We work for equal parts and it is shared between all of us. We're not going to enrich ourselves, but we will maintain ourselves and either way in a private company you are not going to enrich yourself, you are going to earn less.

In 1998, prior to the first election of President Hugo Chavez’s government, Venezuela had 813 registered cooperatives.  After the new 1999 Constitution which specifically provided for government support for the formation of cooperatives, the movement blossomed through the efforts of Chavez’s Mision Vuelvan Caras.

By 2006, there were 263,000 cooperatives in existence.  By law, the government now exempts the cooperatives from taxes, subsidizes the purchase of equipment and physical accommodations with low interest loans, and provides technical assistance as needed.  Cooperatives receive precedence in the awarding of government contracts.

The government supplies the legal template for the documents needed to form the cooperative entity, called an “Acta Constitutiva y Estatutos De La Cooperative”, similar to Articles of Incorporation required of companies in the U.S.

A section of the Acta provides for the election of a coordinator, secretary and treasurer for a term of three years, with a separate committee of two persons to act as Controllers and Evaluators to monitor the actions of the officers and the cooperative at large.  A Coordinator of Education must be elected to coordinate educational programs for members and a specified percentage of cooperative income must be reserved for education of cooperative members.

These educational reserves allows all cooperative members to be trained in the skills needed to administer the organization and improve their productive skills.  All members are expected to participate in every aspect of cooperative life through a majority-rule democratic process. There is no legal requirement that all cooperative members be paid equally.  Payment is subject to democratic decision, as are the day-to-day working procedures for the groups.

It must be noted here that, despite the constitutional and top level legal support for the cooperatives, there remain obstacles to cooperative development by virtue of the country’s long-entrenched administrative bureaucracy, some of which is still utilizing clerical procedures that date from the onset of Spanish colonialism.  The cooperatives are required to maintain five sets of administrative record books, all of which must be hand-written and error-free, and comply with other bureaucratic demands that sometimes severely impede the efficient organization and operation of the cooperatives.  

The Bolivarian socialist revolution has not yet entered the bowels of this resistant bureaucracy and it remains an urgent task.

Another problem area in forming efficient cooperatives is the fact that, within some individuals, especially those coming from the traditional middle class, the ideology of  capitalist “individualism-” still pervades.  The “What’s in it for me-ism?”  can make it difficult to form cohesive cooperatives among groups of professionals.  That is much, much less of a problem among unskilled workers and farm and rural laborers, the source of the majority of cooperatives in Venezuela.

Radio Al Reves  interviewed cooperative members from groups in Lara State in the Andes, including Omar Garcia, a founding member of the Las Lajitas agricultural cooperative, one of the oldest cooperatives in the country,  which now farms exclusively organically:

I think that we have survived these past years because all of us who started this cooperative, we  didn’t have anything. We were farm workers, producers without anything, without a piece of land, without a hoe, without a pick.  Through the cooperative, we were creative and we got capital. We got some credit extended to us for the acquisition of this land, we divided the credit into three parts, the first for the acquisition of land, which is actually very hard to get credit for, but we had a lot of luck with an organization that facilitated the loan, the second part went to capital for to pay workers and the third went for machinery.  So we got credit for the farm and at this point the farm is totally paid off...

Our production in Las Lajitas is completely organic. We began to farm in a conventional way, but seeing that it brought many problems of pollution, both in those who consumed the product as well as in those who work the land.  It was creating health problems. Seeing the level of pollution in the water and the environment we decided to figure out how we could produce in an organic way.

Thus, cooperative production can not only improve its workers’ economic condition, but give the workers themselves control over the conditions under which they work, including their conditions of safety and health.  Their decision-making directly benefits the health of the whole community. All the workers do the thinking and administering for the cooperative, rather than merely being the fungible physical bodies whose labor produces commodities at the whims of the capitalist bosses. Working together to run the cooperative and produce their livelihood and rotating into all the other jobs in the project, changes the nature of social relations among workers in the organization and with their communities.

Ender Duarte, a member of the CECOSESOLA cooperative in Lara’s capitol, Barquisimeto, tells about the effect of cooperative working on social relations, especially when workers know intimately the problems of each other’s jobs because they have done them themselves:

Basically we all have the possibility of learning from each other and it’s distinct, because when we say that our relationships are of trust or of personal growth its really easy to criticize someone else if I don't understand their position. This is one of the possibilities that this rotation gives us. That we can all learn everything, and if one is not exercising power over others then we have no problem sharing all the knowledge.  So knowledge is not private property of anybody, instead we share it and so in these rotations we all learn about the work that we need to do.

Gaudi Garcia, also of CECOSESOLA, notes that:

When we learn how to work together and we learn how to accept other people that are different from us, and the other person actually accepts somebody who is different too, and we can still work together to plan activities and we really achieve working together with people through differences, I think that this represents a huge spiritual strength and growth.

The CECOSESOLA cooperative is one of the largest non-governmental distributors of food in Venezuela where  produce, dairy, meat, household goods and domestic appliances are sold at substantially lower prices than at other stores, yielding savings of over $11 million annually to the community.   CECOSESOLA is also affiliated with many farmer cooperatives, providing transportation networks to get their goods to consumers. Thus the cooperatives connect with the larger communities in which they function, providing benefits not only to their members, but to all.

Ciro Ramos sums up something this writer has observed in the course of four years living here in Venezuela.  The cooperative movement is only one aspect of the important social changes wrought by Venezuela’s socialist government and its visionary president, Hugo Chavez.

I am sixty years old and I have never seen a government like this one.  He [Chavez]  is caring towards the poor, towards those who don't have things, to solve problems. This president wants that no one in this country is poor.

And, through organizations such as the health mission, Barrio Adentro, the educational missions, Mission Ribas and Robinson, the new housing and agricultural missions and, especially, the cooperative mission, Mission Vuelvan Caras, the Chavez government has dramatically reduced poverty, ill health and educational inadequacies for the vast majority of Venezuelans.  The secret is social organization at the community and work place level.  Thus cooperative member, Omar Garcia,  has important advice for us all, especially Americans:


I think that in this moment many things in the world have changed, but I think that what is really interesting is the organization of human beings, especially working people. Let’s say it, poor people.  Organization of poor people is extremely interesting, and through organization we learn about all sorts of things. There are also difficulties in organization, but you have to overcome them.  One way to overcome problems is to organize. I think as individuals it is difficult to overcome all the problems that we face. Also there is that human part of us that needs to have relationships with other people, we have desires to be with other people.  Sometimes when we work alone as individuals we feel tired or we can feel like we are alone. I can make money, but without any participation. I think cooperatives help with this part...

The key to overcoming capitalism’s human devastation and systemic greed is to be found in joining together with other members of one’s community or work place and acting to transform our economy and thus our society into one that places human needs and aspirations at the top of our priorities.  Forming out own cooperatives is one place to start.

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 02:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo, Group W: Resisting War, and America Latina.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Great Diary, as always! (11+ / 0-)

      Venezuela Analysis

      (an excellent source, for alternative perspectives)

      Many communities in the US have had local food-cooperatives for many years now, somewhat along the lines described in the diary, and developing some pretty sophisticated networks of local producers and consumers, and also extending regionally and beyond.

      This has grown beyond the original simple, funky hippie phenomenon, into a burgeoning movement, with considerable resources for investment in local community development and education, as well as for the primary goal of providing clean, healthy food for members.

      A good starting point for exploring this in our own country, and perhaps getting involved with your local food co-op, or starting your own neighborhood buying club or community co-op:

      Co-op Directory

      Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

      by Radical def on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:23:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  while I agree that the coop movement is growing by (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        leaps and bounds in the US as well as globally and I personally think is the next important form of economic organization (which i will go into at another time through the diary process), I do think we need to take a realistic look at the coop movement that grew out of the 60s and continues today.

        1)Most of these coops began from an ideological base (i.e., provide more healthy, organic food)and were started by middle class members.

        2)are consumer coops which means the members the coop is designed to advantage is the consumer more than the worker.

        This has led to a couple of concerns:

        1)the emphasis has been on quality food at the expense of an awareness of how the coops support or are integrated with the working class.  This has frequently resulted in great organic food which many workers cannot afford so they don't use the coops. While there has been some effort to ameliorate this problem, it is still a component.

        The same type of problem can occur when the consumer coop tries to provide support for the production sector of a coop, such as in the CAS (Sustainable Community Agriculture) programs.  For example, the consumers in the coop pay, up front, for several months of produce.  This requires a fairly large initial investment which is not
        possible for many people (though some share a membership). Again, this leads to a certain class distinction in membership.  For their membership each member receives weekly a certain amount of fresh farm produce.  What they will receive is based by what is grown on the farm. If the farm is efficient and thinks about the consumer, they will get great fresh veggies.  But if the farm is not efficient in how it arranges its production, joins with other farms, etc. they might receive  a distribution of goods that is uneven and not really worth the purchase price. Since most of the coop members as consumers, deal just with distribution of goods, they have no real way to correct these issues to improve the movement. They might continue to purchase the goods in sort of a liberal "charitable" way of keeping small farms afloat, but this does not really improve the farm movement or make it more necessary to the improvement of the average working class person's life.

        This does not mean that there are not many great food coops (Brooklyn's Park Slope coop comes to mind) or that some coops haven't taken the class issue into account. Just means we shouldn't glamourize them as more than they are.

        There are many production coops developing and it is here that we see a more cohesive and less idealistic approach (i.e. check out the production coops in Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story). Because if the coop is your source of livelihood, you are more likely to be invested in the economic process that if it is just a small part of your life like a food coop.

    •  It's not quite away from capitalism (8+ / 0-)

      but business co-operatives do diversify ownership.  Co-operatives who sell their wares are still dependent upon the market -- what you ultimately want is a freegan cooperative, which gives its produce to other co-operatives and which receives from them its share of the means of production.  That would be life which didn't depend upon "market conditions" for its continuing to exist.

      "Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence." -- Chris Hedges

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:23:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excuse me for a moment while I imagine a... (6+ / 0-)

        freegan cooperative world.  Ah...that feels so right.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:26:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Such exchanges do tend to develop... (7+ / 0-)

        around and within a cooperative community.

        The "profit motive" can be supplanted by mutual aid, cooperation and solidarity, when people begin to realize the amazing bounty that results from a community working together and equitably sharing the results.

        Barter can actually turn into a "competition" to show who can be the most generous, heh, instead of how much we can screw each other over.

        Also, "market conditions" can indeed break away from relatively expensive and inefficient conventional mersh crap, shipped half way around the world, toward much higher quality products produced well as more rational exchange with more distant markets.

        Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

        by Radical def on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:43:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Competitions For Generosity Not Unheard Of.... (5+ / 0-)

          In my undergraduate anthropology courses I remember reading about several island groups in the Trobriand Islands of South Pacific whose status in their societies was determined by how much they gave away.

          Later, when I lived in Papua New Guinea, my law students told me that in the highland homes, their tribal leaders held massive (perhaps deliberately, competitively massive) pig kills, at which huge amounts of pigs were killed and cooked for the benefit of the tribe.  In Enga and Southern Highlands provinces, this might involve thousands of community members.

          It was not, however, strictly an egalitarian ritual, as the tribal leaders owned the pigs and the women and children sometimes got the less savory parts.

          So, I think the idea of competitive generosity is splendid, although I'm sure the pigs might differ.

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

          by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:23:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah, like the potlach practice among PNW Indians (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justina, geomoo, bigjacbigjacbigjac

            Pacific Northwest Indian tribes developed similar practices...hadn't heard about those in South Pacific.

            Yeah, those don't seem completely, purely altruistic, heh, considering the fairly rigid hierarchical tribal structures, which do seem to have some class distinctions.

            I was thinking more along the lines of more informal, personal, neighborly economic relations, in terms of "competing" for generosity.

            But have also seen plenty of hard-bargaining barter, as well, lol.

            Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

            by Radical def on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 05:10:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Superb, Justina. (8+ / 0-)

      Nice to finally be around for one of these.

      I love the irony of this:

      these putative Nietzschean capitalist supermen use their enormous wealth to buy our politicians and pass self-serving legislation which legalizes their looting.  

      The fact that these heroic Ubermenschen spend to much of their efforts bribing the state gives the lie to their whole ideology of rugged individualism.  A lot of these giant corporations are essentially wards of the state and their managers are the ultimate welfare queens.   Anybody here read Taibbi's latest about the Morgan Stanley wives who were handed millions by the Fed?

      Don't tell me what you do. Tell me whose interests you serve and I'll tell you what you do.

      by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:47:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, It's All for the Good of the Tribe. (6+ / 0-)

        In Papua New Guinea, a fundamental principle of tribal life was one's duty to the tribe, to the people who shared your language.  It was called wontalkism, (one-talk) and that principle conflicted immensely with running an efficient democratic government.  

        If a member of a tribe got a job in which he had the power to hire and fire, his tribal training demanded that he give the available jobs to a member of his tribe.  This, of course, conflicted with standard civil service hiring rules.  Oh, the problems!

        Our oligarchic supermen, however, seem to have no problem in giving billions to their wives and friends.  They rest easy knowing that no Department of Justice peon would even think of questioning their behavior.  

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

        by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:33:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting post (8+ / 0-)

    I always ask when I read things like this though, why we have to be so attached to the labels of socialism and capitalism?  It seems to me that if the workers own their own company and realize a profit, they are to some degree capitalist.  I think all societies have a mixture of socialism and capitalism.  Socialism  to me is economic infrastructure implemented by the government.  So schools, roads, lines of credit, healthcare, training are all things which people can then use to help markets and communities grow. A strong society would seem to have a balance.  The only real threat to this is the constant threat which Adam Smith laid out.  Monopolies and people with too much power and money gaining too much influence over government(like we have in this country).  Then call it socialism, call it capitalism, doesn't matter.  We're screwed.

    •  the distinction between a workers' owned and (16+ / 0-)

      operated cooperative operating outside a capitalist mentality is that the means of production and distribution are owned by those workers. Decisions about distribution of revenue (in this case what is reinvested in the business and what is distributed to the workers that own the business) is usually decided by the workers themselves and questions of capitalist efficiency and competitiveness are not the basis for these decisions. Profits do not truly exist (in that revenues are not appropriated by the owners of the factory and if money for investment was borrowed, it can be paid back leaving full ownership in the hands of the workers).

      Independent of the profit motive and considerations of capitalist competitiveness, revenue is not shared between profits and wages, the returns of the value of output go to the workers, payment to continue production (purchase of raw materials, new technology) and expand (if desired), repayment of any loans or debts and a decent living income is earned by those workers that own the cooperative and work there. There is no one that sets the income of the workers except themselves.

      That is a very different concept than what we see in normal capitalist relations of production and distribution.

      History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:03:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  See, to me this is (5+ / 0-)

        what makes these cooperatives socialist rather than capitalist.  The linchpin of capitalism is the private expropriation of the surplus created by the workers.  If all of the surplus is administered by the workers' themselves then, even with a market structure intact, it's not really capitalism.  Now, a lot of communists would dispute this, saying that the only socialist economy is a planned economy, but I think this conflates markets under global imperialism with all possible conceptions of markets.  It seems to me that markets are pretty malleable things, and while there are certainly disadvantages to them, if you create the right sort of market structure they can be quite useful.  

        I think what I would like to see is an economy in which all natural resources, credit creation and health care are administered through the state, and a highly regulated cooperative market structure at the level of consumer goods production and distribution.  There's no reason for "competition" in coal mining, for example.  But on the other hand, I don't think having a single state-owned company producing mp3 players is a great model either.  If you look at the socialist experiments of the 20th century, where they really failed was in the provision of consumer goods.  

        Agriculture presents its own set of issues, with small farmers usually being the most resistant to state collectivisation of the land, but the interesting thing is that a lot of food production has already been effectively collectivised under capitalism, with just a few enormous firms producing the vast majority of food.  So I think we could have a dual system: expropriation  and state collectivisation of big ag, and a robust cooperative structure for the relatively few small farmers still out there.

        These are all complicated issues, obviously,  But I think, as socialists, we do have to come up with a real plan for creating an effective socialist economy.  These are not questions that we can just put off until after the revolution.  In order for the revolution to succeed, and in order for us to not get trapped into the kind of siege mentality of the Bolsheviks and Chinese communists and other past socialist experiments, we need to be able to get a robust socialist economy up and running quickly.  Otherwise people will sour on the revolution.

        What do you guys think?

        Don't tell me what you do. Tell me whose interests you serve and I'll tell you what you do.

        by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:30:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cooperatives are most definitely socialist (6+ / 0-)

          there are no profits, nor is there private ownership of the means of production and distribution. Even in Marx's criticism of what he termed utopian socialist co-operativism his criticism was their attempt to try to establish a socialist mode in the context of capitalism. That is why profit-sharing is not the same thing as a cooperative; profits are the surplus that goes to the capitalists; surplus revenue over and above costs and what is distributed to the workers in a workers cooperative is then either reinvested in the coop or divied up amongst members if expansion or replacement of technology is not desired.

          Certainly, it is useful to discuss ideas for non-capitalist systems; but it is also important to recognise the input of more than just a few people as the course of future economies and societies must be based upon both the desires of the people that created the society and democratic participation.

          Given your beliefs, why don't you join the anti-capitalist meet-up and/or anti-capitalist chat?

          History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:57:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Another area where state ownership (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justina, geomoo

          and central planning can be enormously effective is in the area of infrastructure.  

          What would anarchist infrastructure development look like?

          Don't tell me what you do. Tell me whose interests you serve and I'll tell you what you do.

          by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:59:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You Really Made Me Chuckle with This. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But then it occurred to me that I would much prefer to drive over an I.W.W. constructed bridge than one constructed by the Koch brothers.

            Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

            by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:31:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wasn't trying to be snarky. (0+ / 0-)

              I respect my anarchist friends.  But I would like to hear some more about these kinds of practical considerations.

              Don't tell me what you do. Tell me whose interests you serve and I'll tell you what you do.

              by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 10:26:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  In our modern society the press has morphed... (6+ / 0-)

      capitalism to mean ruthlessly competitive hierarchical business structure with little or no governmental regulation.  In capitalism, there are two party's the workers, who don't own capital and the owners/capitalists, who do.  I one sense you are right.  All the workers in the Venezuelan coop are owners.  But since the owners and workers are the same people, there are none of the competition between the two groups and none of the usual dynamic of capitalism apply.

      Socialism used to be state capitalism.  The government owned all commerce in the name of the people.  That formula is now usually referred to as communism.

      Socialism in mass media is morphing into meaning capitalism with stronger governmental control to ameliorate the worst of the excesses of the rich against the poor.

      What I think works best for Venezuelan coop situation is Anarchism.  But anarchy is a dirty word in the American Lexicon.  Getting Americans to look at anarchist ideas is nearly impossible because the second you mention it, Americans are sure you are about to blow something up or that you belong to a biker gang.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:23:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You Are Right (4+ / 0-)

      Our society has a long history of, for instance, having lawyers own their own business in partnership. And no one calls the structure non-capitalist.

      A partnership is of course clearly different from a cooperative, in that there are a large number of employees (e.g. secretaries) who will never get to become part owners of the place (which doesn't seem so fair) and there are a large number of junior employees (e.g. junior lawyers) who will have to wait a while and prove their worth before allowed to buy into the partnership (which probably is fair). But the basic concept of a worker-owned industry stays intact. And the idea of a law firm, where, say, a real estate lawyer shares profits with a bankruptcy lawyer so one can help cover the other when one of them is having bad business, has never be said to be socalist, but rather has been long acknowledged as good business sense.

      •  I still see this a different at the roots... (6+ / 0-)

        The lawyers are all owners and make all the decisions and take all the profits.  The fact that they share, does not make them noncapitalists.  Many corporations are run the same way--in partnership.

        They still oversee a large group of people who make their work possible.  Those people are not owners and have no decision power.

        In the cooperative the owners and the worker are the same people.  There isn't anyone who does not share in the decision making and the profit.  That is what makes it noncapitalist--no capitalists.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:47:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see efficient production which is the goal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of a good worker and socialist production as mutually exclusive. Under socialism the goal of efficiency is to make the best products possible so we,  the workers who get to use the things we produced, will have a better life. It is only if we think of capitalist efficiency where the goal of efficiency is to make more profit for the boss that "efficiency" is a problem..

  •  Fabulous diary Justina, you've done (15+ / 0-)

    am amazing job pulling this together. Sorry for the technological screw-up (my computer published immediately) rather than the time I had tried to schedule. Going back to read more the second time so as to make a useful comment about the excellent piece that you have done.

    Tipped and rec'd (and shared) with gratitude for your hard work.

    History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 02:50:38 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, NY Brit Expat... (7+ / 0-)

      for your nice comment and special thanks for all your work in keeping the Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up group functioning, not only with your administrative work but with your ideas and useful historical contributions.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:04:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank Justina, I'm so sorry for the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GiveNoQuarter, Justina, Larsstephens

        technological foul-up ... at least it was early rather than late (so  hopefully we didn't lose any readers). You really did an excellent job; it is a significant contribution to people's knowledge not only about Venezuela, but also about cooperatives and different ways to enable economic development.

        History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:10:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting information and perspective (17+ / 0-)

    and I see from your previous diaries that you've been covering the side of Venezuela that the US media ignores for a while now.

    One of the worst things the DLC and Clinton achieved in the '90s was switching the Democratic Party's donor-base from a broad coalition of the middle class (especially unions, with their formidable organizations) towards a narrow collection of millionaires. Since then DC has become just the oligarchs arguing amongst themselves, unmoved by the concerns of the man and woman in the street.

    "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

    by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 02:52:51 PM PDT

    •  Sorry, that comment seems orthogonal to your diary (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, NY brit expat, Justina, geomoo

      I did find your picture of the cooperatives both interesting and somewhat inspiring.

      It does seem to me that you paint a slightly rosy picture, but I have no facts to back up that intuition, whereas you see them every day up close.

      I look forward to learning more from your diaries about Venezuela in future.

      "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

      by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 02:57:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Cooperatives have a very long history (6+ / 0-)

        and there are a number of both producer and consumer cooperatives that have been in operation for a long-time in Europe.

        History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:08:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It Is Rosy. Reality is Always Complicated. (10+ / 0-)

        My post was already too long to try to explore all the many problems that can occur in creating and operating cooperatives, although I alluded briefly to some problems I've observed. The expression "herding cats" comes to mind.

        Many of new cooperatives do not survive their formation.
        The truth is that it can be damned hard to get people to simply come to meetings, let alone to convince them to put the good of the whole community ahead of their own personal interests.  I've seen this in the small language teachers cooperative I've been working with and with my local community council (consejo comunal) but I am sure the problem is pretty universal.  

        When you then consider that the Chavez government is trying to motivate changed social relations, mind sets and economic relations in a big country with 30 million individuals in it, the task is mind boggling.  And it is mind-boggling without even considering the very well-funded, media controlling capitalist opposition, local and international, which is intent on destabilizing the Chavez government at every turn.

        Transforming a society to a new, human,  economic system is an immense and difficult job.  But it can work and we have to put the effort into trying.

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

        by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:47:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Boy, Do I Agree with You! (10+ / 0-)

      I have long believed that the DLC was created by disaffected Rockefeller-type Republicans who had been ousted from the official Republican by the religious extremists and the crazies.  They entered the DLC and, having heaps of money, successfully took over the regular Democratic Party, starting with Bill Clinton and ending (I hope) with Obama.

      So, todays economic debates and budget battles are simply between the extreme right Randians and the formerly quasi-liberal wing of the Republican party.  The traditional Democrats and the trade unionists no longer even have a seat at the table, it's all Republican.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:32:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  When are we going to stop using the middle class (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      organized labor movement as representing the entire working class which iincludes way to much unorganized labor, way to many minorities and minimum wage workers. Jack London in the Iron Heel would probably have seen the middle class segment of the working class as the labor bureacracy behind the fences.  Which is why Wisconsin is happening and we need a revitalization of labor -- which we can only get if we stop dividing the working class into the middle class and the "poor", basing their class identity on their wages and benefits instead of their work and relation to the means of production.

      •  I don't know if you intended to rebuke my (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        terminology, but that's how your comment sounds. Which makes me less interested in discussing my many thoughts on this issue.

        Note that I speak specifically of "the Democratic Party's donor-base", which really has been far more among the middle-class than the poor.  

        "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

        by Brecht on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:45:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do you know (6+ / 0-)

    if there is any connection between these collectives and the "Christian Base Communities" of the liberation theology movement?  There was some hope at one point that the base Christian communities - like that of Solentiname in pre-revolutionary Nicaragua - would be a real galvanizer for socialism in Latin America, but at the end of the 1990s, Jose Comblin, a liberation theologian, was noting that the youth of Latin America were opting for urbanization with gusto, as opposed to the kind of committed socialism of the CBCs.

    •  Christ Was a Socialist and VE is Very Catholic. (8+ / 0-)

      I'm sure that at least some of the participants in the cooperative movement were inspired by Christian socialism if not its liberation theology specifically.

      President Chavez himself frequently refers to the fact that Christ was the first socialist, and that he is a Christian socialist.  So I suspect that Chavez, who has always read obsessively and extensively, was sympathetic to the liberation theologians, although I have no specific documentation of that fact.  

      There is a wonderful book about Chavez's life called "Chavez Nuestro",  which I believe appears in an English language edition under the title "Our Chavez".  It is a series of interviews of people who knew Chavez and his family from the time he was young until 2004.  It was written by two Cuban writersRosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Báez, and published in Havana by Casa Editora Avil.  It provides great insight into Chavez's life experiences and his character.  It is also a great read!

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:01:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes. I visited a very well developed farming coop (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in Venezuela that was started by some Christian brothers and has been running for 25 years.  It is one of the oldest coops and a model for many others.

  •  There will be those who will gasp (15+ / 0-)

    at your audacity to highlight what Chavez has done other than in the way our news and government portrays him.

    Now I don't know the truth of what all he has done good or bad, but I do think that collectives, where people share in the actual profit from their labors rather than have to take cents on thousands of dollars from a corporation, are a definite plus.  Not everyone would want to be in one, but we ought to have that choice.  We've had collectives, IIRC, in stores getting organic foods and such from farmers and dairies and other types of producers and the members of that collective were able to buy those much desired items.  But since there have been some stores like trader joes and whole foods I haven't seen a collective.

    Basically I feel that we have seen our communities ravaged by our current policies.   And it promises to get even worse.  We need to rethink what are policies are doing.  We need to look at old ideas, come up with new ideas and find something that is sustainable.  Basically the Koch ideas are not sustainable.  And we need to promote those ideas that are.

    All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take. Mohandas Gandhi

    by glitterscale on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:10:19 PM PDT

  •  Thanks Justina (7+ / 0-)

    You really said it all in last Paragraph. My brain works much better in morning so hotlist, tipped and recd and will read closely in the morning. I really like what I k now about Venezuela but I don't know much so look forward to learning!
    Thanks Justina!

    "IJDH provides the tools for people who care about Haiti to make a real difference on the ground."-- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

    by allie123 on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:11:01 PM PDT

  •  It's all about who decides. (14+ / 0-)

    In the U. S., the decision-making is done by a few execs who run roughshod over the rights of workers, consumers, their communities, even the stockholders.

    This news about Venezuela is truly inspiring and gives us a far different model that we should be implementing here.

    Thanks again, Justina.

  •  We are trying to compile an email (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allie123, goinsouth, Brecht, RiaD, Justina, lams712

    list to help keep in touch with members of the anti-capitalist meet-up and anti-capitalist chat as there has been some difficulty with the messaging system here. Can you please send a message to the following address so that we can keep in touch better, organise and also facilitate participation:


    History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:13:11 PM PDT

  •  Great diary!... I noticed that you didn't... (6+ / 0-)

    mention the one word from South of the border that strikes fear into the hearts of every capitalist:  Expropriation.

    I know when companies left Argentina in their financial slump the Argentinians expropriated many factories and equipment.  Did Chavez do the same?  Is that the real reason he is so despised in American media?  Or is it just his support of the poor and the anarchist tendencies in his government?

    NOTE:  For those unfamiliar with expropriation the logic is like this:  If the government gave your factory a tax break when you came to town so you would provide jobs to the community, then if you leave town for greener pastures, you own the town something for that tax break.  That something turns out to be your factory and all the equipment within which is then turned over to the workers who you were putting out of a job.  They then run the factory collectively.  This was how many cooperatives were started.

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:37:02 PM PDT

  •  Next week's diary is by SLKRR (10+ / 0-)

    on the general strike in Brazil that brought down the military dictatorship.

    For May Day, Goinsouth and NY brit expat will be doing a joint anti-capitalist meet-up diary following a whole series of May Day diaries on the Anti-capitalist chat organised by Activist Guy. If you would like to help on the May Diaries/Events please send a message to the anti-capitalist chat group or write to the

    History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:44:25 PM PDT

  •  I would like permissin to republish this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    to Group W.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 03:49:56 PM PDT

  •  Your excellent diary, Justina (9+ / 0-)

    got me to wondering where I could find out more about what has happened to the Cooperative movement here in the States. My own involvement with co-ops (food, utilities, and farm related) has mostly dropped off, except for food and REI, since I moved to an urban area from rural communities.

    I did find this site, Center for Cooperatives -  Cooperatives in the US Economy, which looks promising. Does anyone know of any other sites with statistics comparing historical to current numbers?  I'd guess the trend is diminishing when it should be on the rise given the Great Wall Street looting otherwise known as the Great Recession.

    Anyway thanks for covering this important and inspirational subject.

    •  Other "subjects" to look at are "urban gardening", (5+ / 0-)

      which is often done on a cooperative basis, "community gardens" and similar topics.

      The Internal Revenue Code has special provisions for cooperatives, and the Treasury Department's annual Statistics of Income Report might address them in a very broad total dollars type of manner.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:09:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And "Window-Gardening" Too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        enhydra lutris, geomoo

        I live in a fourth floor, 16 apartment building, with no roof access, so I was intrigued to read about a movement in New York and a few other cities to make window, hydroponic gardens.  There is a website that describes the process and sells the D.I.Y. plans.  See

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

        by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:10:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If our media was not under such tight control, (7+ / 0-)

      imagine what would have actually happenedin Wisconsin.

      Imagine if all the states owned a bank, like N. Dakota, so they could loan money in a responsible way and use the interest for schools and roads.  Imagine what it would be like if a company threatened to leave town unless it got another tax break and the governor countered with the threat to expropriate.

      If Americans knew these were options, then yes, I think they would utilize them.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:11:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I looked for links, making sure to check for (4+ / 0-)

      both producer, workers and consumer cooperatives in the US and Internationally and found several links, but that one is the only one that has historical information in terms of numbers: here is one with some history:

      here is another link specifically on workers cooperatives:

      History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 04:20:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great Topic for a Post at Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cosmic debris, geomoo, Larsstephens

      Hope you pursue the research on U.S. cooperatives and turn it into a story here.

      Many cooperatives sprang up in the U.S. during the first Great Depression.  There were a lot, mainly dealing with farm produce,  in the mid-west.  It's a great idea to continue the tradition here now.  I belonged to one, a supermarket located in Leonia, New Jersey, which was started during the 30's but was still thriving in the 60's.  Lord knows we need them now in our Second Great Depression.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:00:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The contradictions between the middle class coop (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      movement and class which I raised early is (or was), I'm sorry to say, very prevelent in REI.  I lived in Seattle for several years and had the required REI sleeping bag. I, like most Seattlites thought Recreational Equipment, Inc. was a great concept -- good outdoor equipment, a successful company and a coop! What more could one want.  I found out when one of the women in our women's center went to work in one of their factories.  She was paid minimumn wage and work conditions were not good.  She also noted that she (a white worker) was only working with other white workers on one floor and all the Asian women workers were working on another floor --and being paid $.25 an hour less.
           It's been a number of years now, but I believe that REI is only a consumer coop, not a production coop -- see my note above on the distinction.

  •  Randism de-skills us. This way gives us... (7+ / 0-)

    ... our skills back, and our sense of dignity and autonomy at work.

    This is the best diary I have read in a long time. When was the last time any American felt real professional pride, a real personal growth? Not to mention, heaven forbid, actual enjoyment?

    (The forced fun and positivity too many of us encounter in our service, retail and sales jobs doesn't cut it... to REALLY make us feel happier at work, you give us more money and more control over our own lives; the exact opposite of "be yourself or else".)

    I have long felt like bosses were increasingly in a position to give you skills or take them away. Because to really cement in skills, you need to practice them in the real world.  You need sufficient time and opportunity to take the raw knowledge of school, and actually test it out in the real world.

    In other words, you actually have to work at the job, in a real-world setting, with real people. If you don't hire someone, their skills don't get practiced, and will atrophy altogether if they don't practice them at some time in their lives.

    Which makes getting a job about sitting back and passively waiting for the Job Fairy™, an angel employer, to leave a job under your pillow. Which makes the acquisition of professional skill increasingly a gift given to you by an employer who likes you.

    Which is anathema to the very ideas of professionalism and self-sufficiency.

    The way we hire and promote is now almost tailor-made to not develop human beings or their skills. Because to save money, hiring has become a game of "before anything else, you must first be the right person". We can't just roll up our sleeves and get to work anymore. No-- first we have to wait until the boss calls us a "fit". I place direct blame for the unemployment figures on this shift in work philosophy.

    When we learn how to work together and we learn how to accept other people that are different from us, and the other person actually accepts somebody who is different too, and we can still work together to plan activities and we really achieve working together with people through differences, I think that this represents a huge spiritual strength and growth.

    At too many workplaces, "being a fit" means agreeing with the boss' personal philosophy, or the corporate culture.  Being a fit means you can NOT be different from the boss. It's just too costly in both time and money, apparently, to take the little bit of extra work to bridge these differences.
    And how convenient that "likeability" is so revered a quality by bosses now. What is one essential way one makes oneself likeable? By being similar to the person you're trying to build a relationship with. This, unfortunately, has been proven again and again by solid scientific research. (What exactly do you do when something that's truthful, still just feels plain wrong?)

    And increasingly, our private lives are being monitored for alignment with our workplaces' missions... what do you think firing someone for criticizing the boss on Facebook is about? All about protecting the company brand. What do you think personality tests are about? They say it's about reducing attrition. It's all about brand and image maintenance, as well as making decisions from emotions and comfortability... something we have been encouraged strongly to do for YEARS, as something salubrious for our psychological health.

    This is why we don't trust certain people by virtue of their occupation, or what company they work for. Because of all the screenings they had to pass just to get a foot in the door, let alone be entrusted with a position of leadership. Remember when some of us doubted Kirsten Gillibrand would be progressive enough? Because she's a corporate lawyer, and what corporate law firm would even ALLOW a person with insufficient "profit > people" mindset into their culture?

    Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

    by Lucy Montrose on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 05:05:30 PM PDT

    •  I Was Struck By That Quote Too, Lucy Montrose! (6+ / 0-)

      While there is much discussion about the need for workers to "own" the means of production, there is much less consideration of who controls that production and makes the decisions about what, how and under what conditions production takes place.  

      Your comments about allowing the workers to develop and use their skills to their full potential is also important.  One of things that impressed me about the government's template for setting up the cooperatives is that it is mandatory that funds be allocated for further training and eduction for the workers in the cooperative. The content of the "further" education is not mandated, however, so philosophy courses are as appropriate as utilitarian accounting!

      President Chavez is forever urging his radio and TV listeners to read and he frequently emphasizes that Simon Bolivar's dream was to turn the whole country into a school.  So many of my friends, neighbors and even street venders here are taking courses that I suspect that Chavez has made Bolivar's dream actually come true.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:22:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Apologies re: Recommendations. (3+ / 0-)

    For some damned reason, many of the posts I've recommended have had the rec's disappear.  I've gone back and tried to correct 3 times, but not sure I've caught them all or that they will stay recommended.  Techies!

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

    by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 05:07:41 PM PDT

    •  I have been having trouble getting to some of the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      recommended sites on worker and production coops in the USA. Don't know if those were your recs or not, but sites are not available.  Which is really too bad, cause that info is hard to come by.

      One of my favorite books on the coops in Argentina (don't know if you listed this already -- but at least you can actually find it) is SIN Patron by the Lavaca collective.

  •  Great diary, Thanks. (4+ / 0-)

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 05:14:07 PM PDT

  •  Some comments on the sociological/psychological (4+ / 0-)

    I have just learned about Stjepan G. Mestrovic, a Texas A&M sociology professor.  I came across him as an expert witness on war crimes, and have since found that he has thought about and written about almost everything I care about, including our "postemotional society" and the need for commitment to a group as the antidote to the human tendency toward exploitation.  Here is a  [pdf warning!] lengthy excerpt from a summary of his work.  I have left out some, so if you want read the entire summary, skip this and go to the link:

    This presentation is based on the theories of Stjepan Mestrovic as presented in his books listed in the bibliography. A complete summary of his and other macro-social theories can be found in Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems, by Frank W. Elwell.

    Derived very much from Durkheim, Mestrovic states that men and women are born with a strong ego or will. In fact, individuals can be conceived as having two natures [they are homo duplex] of the angel and the beast, the beast being the stronger of the two.

    Without strong integration into social groups—not just normative consensus on the rules of behavior and common values, but a love and commitment to these groups—the individual lacks strong moral guidance from their society and the ego or will is set loose upon the world. In such situations, men and women essentially exploit their fellow humans.

    It is important to note that Mestrovic does not believe the needed morality can come from a rational source; in fact, rationality tends to erode the moral authority needed to restrain exploitive behavior.

    Rather, what is needed is a revival of traditional and emotional structures that are capable of fully integrating people into society to keep them in check; love and commitment most of all. Lacking this integration, the will is left to its own devices and engages in barbarism and other exploitive behaviors to satisfy its whims.

    According to Mestrovic, the world is in crisis and sociology is having a difficult time in apprehending that crisis. “Nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and fundamentalism—the leading „isms‟ that Durkheim tried to apprehend sociologically—are still causing turmoil in the world”

    The West is without a comprehensive system of morality, each individual is left to her own devices, there is little restraint on individual will.

    Without a moral system that truly binds individuals to the social order, crime has reached epidemic levels; politics has become a game of power and dominance rather than governance and consensus; economic competition has become unrestrained and often counter to the good of the social whole.

    Violence in pursuit of individual “happiness” has become a way of life; suffering and discontent despite material abundance has become the norm.

    The western world is living at the height of civilization and barbarism. Human knowledge today is greater than ever before; our understanding of nature and our universe has never been so accurate. Literacy has been spread to the masses; higher education is increasingly available to wider segments of the population.

    Our technology advances on a daily basis; we manipulate our environment to fashion goods and services at a scale unparalleled in human history.

    At the same time, we are living in an era when wars kill thousands; divorce is rampant; inequality within and between nations is high; democratic governments engage in torture; child abuse—sexual, emotional, physical—has seemingly become epidemic.

    Mass murder on the part of governments has become commonplace; corporations exploit workers, consumers, governments, and the environment; murder and other forms of violent crime are at alarming rates; consumerism has become a way of life for many; drug use is epidemic; and politicians engage in lies and deception.

    The list could easily go on—just go to any cable news channel on any given day, read a daily newspaper or a weekly news magazine—civilization is indeed advancing, barbarism is indeed on the rise. Mestrovic asks: could the two be inextricably intertwined?

    Civilization, or the creation of rational institutions to contain barbarism, is simply not effective. Barbarism, or the will of the individual, cannot be constrained by such rationally constructed systems.

    The “heart” (egoism) is always stronger than the “mind” (society); the constraining of the barbaric will can only be accomplished by other “habits of the heart” that are equally powerful. These habits of the heart are feelings of altruism and compassion, the other side of human nature that must be cultivated and given expression in our culture.

    But, altruism cannot be systematized: “The moment one tries to systematize compassion into socialism, for example, one has converted a benign trait into its opposite. This is because, according to Durkheim, any time we act from duty, fear, or any sort of compulsion, we are really acting on the basis of egoistic self interest, which is the basis of barbarism.

    “Durkheim claims over and over again in his writings that genuine human goodness must be sought spontaneously, for its own sake”

    The Problem
    The problem becomes how can we foster the development of such empathy and compassion within the individual? This problem becomes particularly acute in that the development of civilization seems to be eliminating the basis for empathy by weakening traditional institutions such as family and community and instilling the values of the marketplace which inflame the egoistic will.

    Both Durkheim and Mestrovic argue strongly that compassion cannot be learned, it can only be transmitted through example.

    To do this, Durkheim advanced “the revival of guild-like associations and the family” to model compassion and foster its development within individuals; such development would bind the individual to others with bonds of love and commitment.

    Such guilds have not been formed, and the family as well as religion, community, and other institutions that functioned to bind the individual to the whole continue to be weakened in the West.

    Durkheim‟s aphorism that “The gods are growing old or are already dead, and others are not yet born” remains true today. As a consequence, Western societies are in danger of disintegration.

    Seeking identity, values, direction, and meaning in the modern nation state and failing to find it, millions have turned to sectarian religions and ideologies that glorify folk identity and advocate “suspicion, paranoia, and sometimes even hate of neighbors”

    Perhaps in reaction to the decline of traditional religion which was universal in nature and preached love and brotherhood, these fundamentalist faiths have attached themselves to political movements that seek to separate from the dominant culture and establish a more homogenous social order.

    “The important point is that modernity produces its own nemesis. In seeking to establish order and eliminate sentiment, modernity paradoxically produces disorder, fragmentation, and heightened passions—in a word, the anti-modern (or the genuinely postmodern)”

    It was Durkheim who encompassed all of this within his sociology; Durkheim who made religion and the sacred a centerpiece of his thought; Durkheim who pointed to the increasing division of labor as the key to economic development as well as the root cause of anomie and widespread discontent.

    According to Mestrovic, the key insight of Durkheim and other early social scientists that society is held together by irrational feelings of love, affection, attachment, empathy, and devotion to one another has been lost to most modern sociologists.

    This loss, according to Mestrovic, has had tragic consequences for sociology and for western society.

    Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

    by geomoo on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:41:30 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for Posting the Mestrovic Article. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geomoo, Brecht

      Interesting piece on Mestrovic, who opens up some important questions about sustaining sane human relations in the age of capitalist barbarism.  

      I only hope that love of community, the whole human community, beginning with the local and extending to the international, can take the place of obsolete and dysfunctional nationalism and tribalism.

      Would that our emotional intelligence would advance as rapidly as our bellicos technology.  

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

      by Justina on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 09:26:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One thing I find very frustrating (4+ / 0-)

        We have profound understanding now of how the human mind/emotion system works, how we respond to stimuli, what things affect the choices we make.  It seems the only place this invaluable information is being applied is in marketing and politics, which have become the same thing.  We are not educating ourselves individually to understand what unconscious, involuntary forces are driving our behavior.  We are not learning to control our stimuli and circumstances so as to support behaving in the way that serves our own interests.  Pervasive, relentless corporate media have stepped into the vacuum.  Very frustrating.

        When I broach these topics, it seems most people treat them as interesting in the abstract. I keep wanting to say, "You do realize that you are included in the set of all humans, and therefore we are talking about the way you behave as well."  Oh well, just got going on a big frustration of mine.

        Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

        by geomoo on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 09:33:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I suspect (4+ / 0-)

          that many people really don't like thinking as much as they like not-thinking. They do like belonging to a group though, as evidenced by the rise of megachurches. Perhaps cooperatives have not been as successful because they lack the emotional element, at least in the States. Chavez can align them with an emotional commitment to his vision, which might help in his case.

        •  Level of Corruption in U.S. Is Astounding. (4+ / 0-)

          I grew up in the 50's when, at least in my perception at age 9 or 10, churches were pillars of morality not cesspools of child abuse, universities were towers of intellectual rectitude, not awarders of doctoral degrees to the wealthiest donors and purveyors of expensive loans having kickbacks, bankers were the conservative backbone of communities, not wreckless Las Vegas gamblers, judges were strict upholders of the law and its precedents, not conspirators to appoint Republican presidents to office and give corporations leave to freely buy politicians, Presidents were honorable men, not subverters of the Constitution and approvers of torture and extra-judicial killings.

          Granted, my views at age 10 were determined by the capitalist myths that controlled that era, but I am positively overwhelmed by the extent of the corruption that surrounds us now in almost every aspect of our society.  What is even more scary and shameful is that I know that that innocent child of 10 has become corrupted along with all the rest.  

          Is this a new level of corruption, or was it always there, simply hidden from the consciousness of many of us in the 50's?  Is it a historical universal or a function of a particularly barbarous stage of capitalism?  And, most importantly, can we change it?

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

          by Justina on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 05:54:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This, from an Iraq refugee, rings in my ears: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justina, bigjacbigjacbigjac
            In Iraq, Americans are famous for corruption.

            I'm with you, grew up at the same time.  Hard to be sure how much is different, but this from this months Harpers is an indicator that there is a lot to it:

            Average salary difference between a starting New York public school teacher and a first-year private lawyer in 1970: $2000

            Today: $106,000

            Intelligent manipulation of the masses is the invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country. - U.S. propagandist Edward Bernays

            by geomoo on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 11:37:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Justina, Geomoo -- my sentiments, my memory (0+ / 0-)

            as well.  But then again we were young, innocent.  Not near as much of the goings-on was publicized/propagandized and delivered into our living rooms as now.  TV was new in the fifties--but watch a little Mad Men, and you'll begin to remember some of the corruption.  We were lucky to have our heroes untarnished by news of their affairs, blow jobs, and back room deals.  Scandal at the church was kept under wraps.

            We have always been creatures of impulse working on ourselves to become better brothers/sisters to each other.  Thankfully, we got a strong dose of that guidance at home, school, and church if we were part of the rather large middle class of that fairly affluent (or economically secure) era.

            Find your own voice--the personal is political.

            by In her own Voice on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 12:42:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Compare what Goldman says about anarchism. (4+ / 0-)

      There's some common ground here:

      A thorough perusal of the history of human development will disclose two elements in bitter conflict with each other; elements that are only now beginning to be understood, not as foreign to each other, but as closely related and truly harmonious, if only placed in proper environment: the individual and social instincts. The individual and society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each striving for supremacy, because each was blind to the value and importance of the other. The individual and social instincts,--the one a most potent factor for individual endeavor, for growth, aspiration, self-realization; the other an equally potent factor for mutual helpfulness and social well-being.

      The explanation of the storm raging within the individual, and between him and his surroundings, is not far to seek. The primitive man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life, felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the Leitmotiv of the biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the State, to society. Again and again the same motif, man is nothing, the powers are everything. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on condition of complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself. The State, society, and moral laws all sing the same refrain: Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself.

      Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through man's subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in man. There is no conflict between the individual and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the other the repository of the element that keeps the essence pure and strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence--that is, the individual--pure and strong.

      "The one thing of value in the world," says Emerson, "is the active soul; this every man contains within him. The soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth and creates." In other words, the individual instinct is the thing of value in the world. It is the true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to come a still greater truth, the re-born social soul.

      Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity, Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the individual and society.

      Anarchism sees a society filled with voluntarily created and joined groups that come together to make human life better: worker collectives that manage enterprises; community collectives that manage neighborhood resources and solve community-level problems; and cooperative organizations of organizations that tackle larger issues using instructed, re-callable delegates.  These collectives and organizations would not operate by the power of the majority, but by consensus.

    •  Thanks for this geomoo (0+ / 0-)

      and for introducing me to Mestrovic.  Reawakens my early attraction to the field -- it was my undergraduate area of study along with psychology (back in the sixties when the "new" social sciences were emerging as fields of study and research.

      I've come to the same conclusions of late...

      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

      by In her own Voice on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 12:32:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Missed this when it was fresh... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    ...but an excellent diary all around.  I'm continually amazed at how little I know about what's going on in Venezuela... I consider myself reasonably well informed on political issues, but there is always so much more to learn!

    O povo unido jamais será vencido

    by SLKRR on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 10:49:58 AM PDT

  •  I work at a Walmart. I always know I might (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    be fired at any time.

    I worked at OfficeMax
    for 15 years,
    and they fired me.

    I still feel that the key
    is contraception,
    a birth rate of point five,
    for about 200 yearsm
    until the population is down to
    less than 100 million,
    for the whole planet.

    Then we would find it natural
    to live on small farms,
    and trade with those on neighboring farms.

    Raising pigs and goats,
    chickens and cows.

    Grazing those animals,
    growing feed for those animals,
    along with a little for the humans,
    to supplement the meat and egg and cheese diet.

    Read my recent diaries on the topic.

    Cities are easy pickings for capitalists
    and oligarchs.

  •  Justina I hope you see this comment cause I was (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    out of the country and didn't get to read this diary until today.  I was so enthused as coops are a topic dear to my heart and I visited a number of them when I was in Venezuela a few years ago.

    I particularly like your approach to the integration of the individual with the social. Don't know if you remember, but I raised this issue briefly in your Women's Day piece on the abortion changes in Venezuela as this interaction is, I believe, critical to any discussion of a transitional form to socialism.  Anyway, I hope you see this.  I will look for you on Facebook and hope to friend you so we can dialogue more on this issue.

    Thanks for a great diary. Really appreciate your work.

    Geminijen (Peg Rapp on Facebook)

  •  Hey Sus -- thought this was in two parts but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    anyway, I read the one from April 1oth.  As I said on Facebook, it is a great, really readable and informative summary and analysis  You are a great teacher.

    Only thing is, I thought you were going to do a second part in which I thought your analysis would deal with the changes in the Middle East and their involvement in the traditional National Liberation and Anti-Imperialist struggle and the transition to the Neoliberal model(Mubarak, the Mulahs in Iran, Sadam Hussain, Qaddafi --to list just a few-- are very interesting in that context)

    So I hope you still will. Other stuff I hope you will write about in this context.  More on the IMF/WTO and Structural Readjustment Stuff.

    Also how the new financial model of money and exchange rates is used to manipulate cheap labor.


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