Saturday, December 25, 2004

History and Class, Part 2

Convergence and Conjunction Continued

The history of the attempted bourgeois republican revolutions in Venezuela is history given short shrift and the shrift reads "too little, too late." Imagining itself inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, the criollo elite was in reality driven forward by the end of that revolutionary process, by its consolidation within the historical limits of private property.

First convening itself in support of the Bourbon throne and against Napoleon, this would-be bourgeoisie declared itself a junta, then a congress, remaining all the while little more than the city council of Caracas. So began the life of the short-lived La Patria Boba, the Silly Republic.

This first Republic lasted just a year, crumbling in the great earthquake of March 1812, formally surrendering in July 1812. The Republic had ceased to be even before its declaration. The criollo elite were more agents than owners, more functionaries than class. Without that specific relationship to the organization of production, the criollo elite could not press forward a republic as the basis, and the repository, for social equality-- for the equality of producers large and small. Such "equality" is itself formed only in the expropriation and reorganization of rural property as a means of production where expanding agricultural production creates a domestic market for the growth of the technical component of capitalist reproduction; in short, for the expulsion of labor from the production process, from the instrument of production, from the land itself.

Bolivar, embodying nothing more and nothing less than this predicament of the would be national, regional, continental bourgeoisie, of the criollo elite, manifested this historical failure in the second republic, it too lasting just a year.

Only when Jose Antonio Paez, a mestizo caudillo convinced the cattle farming llaneros of the Rio Apure region that social equality was possible only through the overthrow of Spanish rule, was Bolivar able to achieve his victories and establish a third republic.

Still, the actions and the ascendancy of the caudillo measure the weakness of the class as a class, as a force for reproducing new social relations of production, for expanding the reproduction of capital, for "freeing," detaching labor from land. The historical possibility for such separation of labor from private property in land distinct from the emancipation of labor from private property itself was already in eclipse. In this sense, the "backwardness" of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie is the token of advancing capitalism, where capital has run up the wall of a cage from the inside, the cage of private property.

S. Artesian

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