Thinking about positive forms of organization and education leads us directly towards recent developments in Venezuela, which have taken place in various social and political spheres since Hugo Chávez won the presidential elections in 1998. Venezuela is maybe the most inspiring example to highlight possibilities a State nowadays has in globalized capitalism in order to make the participation of the people in decision-making processes possible or to support existing forms of self-organization throughout the society.

Sites for self-organization in Venezuela were at the beginning the “Bolivarian Circles”, kinds of neighborhood organizations in which people meet and take responsibility for different social and cultural matters. “Bolivarian Circles” differed from traditional social oriented organizations, because their aim is political and ideological self-education in order to defend and continue the “Bolivarian Process”. “Bolivarian Circles” were grassroots organizations, which had to be founded from at least seven individuals who agreed on certain agendas and working modes. One year after the Venezuelan people prevented the coup d’etat against the democratically elected president Chávez, in 2003, around 2.5 million individuals allover Venezuela organized themselves in “Bolivarian Circles”. Since then forms of organization changed, following the needs of the people and of the process of social transformation. The “Bolivarian Circles” are not anymore the main organizational form, but nowadays even more people are organized in grassroots organizations of different types.

In order to fight the existing social deficits in the education system, for which the corrupt former governments are responsible, Venezuela introduced a new system of free public education, which is restricted to get privatized through the Bolivarian Constitution, which after Chavez’ election was introduced through a national referendum in 1999. Through the extension of the school system and the abolition of school fees additional 1.5 million children had the opportunity to attend school. Thousands of new schools were constructed or abandoned ones renovated, which are then called “Bolivarian Schools”. In this type of schools pupils stay the whole day over, get up to three meals and the possibility to participate in a comprehensive sports- and culture program. The teaching methods in “Bolivarian Schools” are based on concepts of liberation pedagogy.

In order to give older impoverished people, who have been excluded by the ruling elites from schools, a chance for free education, “missions” are being founded all over the country. “Mision Robinson” is a literacy campaign starting in 2003, which teaches individuals older than 10 years how to read and write. These marginalized individuals in the courses are supported with grants over 100 USD per month, so that they can afford to participate. “Mision Robinson” is based on the teaching method of the Cuban pedagogue Leonela Relys, who got decorated by the UNESCO for her method to teach illiterates reading and writing in two months only. The success rate is 97 per cent; students, who don’t learn reading and writing in these two months, get a chance to repeat the class. The video-based teaching concept “Yo si puedo” (“Yes, I can”) was adopted for “Mision Robinson” according to the Venezuelan context. It leads from the known (numbers) to the unknown (letters) and is based on an integrated method in three steps: Exercise, teaching of reading and writing and consolidation. In a snowball-procedure 70 Cuban pedagogues educated more than 125.000 volunteers as educationists, who traveled throughout the country and organized courses. In October 2005 the UNESCO announced, that Venezuela succeeded to extinguish illiteracy. 1.482.533 people – 55 per cent women – learned reading and writing. They have now the possibility to continue their education in “Mision Ribas”. In 2006 about two million people participated in “Misión Ribas” to earn a high school diploma, which gives them the right to study at a university. “Misión Sucre” provides grants to ten thousands of poor students who want to study at the newly founded Bolivarian universities. The students in “Mision Sucre” are required to carry out social projects in their communities as part of their studies, in order to learn a kind of ethic of the collective. It is also an aim of the education programs to train skilled personnel for the necessary transformation processes. These programs lead to a democratization of education and convey knowledge, which in the earlier decades was only accessible to the privileged classes.

In a “participative and protagonist democracy” participation should of course not stop at the economic sphere. While the economic system in Venezuela as a whole can still be considered a capitalist one, nowadays there are a variety of models, which aim to involve workers in the decision-making processes in enterprises. The most successful examples of worker co-management or worker self-management can be found in shut down factories, which have been reactivated through the struggles and initiatives of the workers. The workers organize themselves in cooperatives, apply for loans from the State, and try to find legal frameworks, which allow them to start the production again. The workers make all major decisions in assemblies, and as “social production companies” (EPS) they spend 10 per cent of their gains in the communities and help setting up cooperatives to form “productive chains” in order to switch away from an export orientated model to an internal development based on the own strengths and needs.

Sources: Dario Azzellini, Venezuela Bolivariana – Revolution des 21. Jahrhunderts?, 2006

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