Wikileaks Corroborates U.S. Increased Aggression Towards Venezuela.

Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela

By Eva Golinger

State Department documents published by Wikileaks evidence Washington's plans to "contain" Venezuela's influence in the region and increase efforts to provoke regime change

A substantial portion of the more than 1600 State Department documents Wikileaks has published during the past two weeks refer to the ongoing efforts of US diplomacy to isolate and counter the Venezuelan government.

Since Hugo Chavez won the presidency for the first time in 1998, Washington has engaged in numerous efforts to overthrow him, including a failed coup d'etat in April 2002, an oil industry strike that same year, worldwide media campaigns and varios electoral interventions. The State Department has also used its funding agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to channel millions of dollars annually to anti-Chavez NGOs, political parties, journalists and media organizations in Venezuela, who have been working to undermine the Chavez administration and force him from power.

When these interventionist policies have been denounced by the Chavez government and others, Washington has repeatedly denied any efforts to isolate or act against the Venezuelan head of state.

Nonetheless, the State Department cables published by Wikileaks clearly evidence that not only has Washington been actively funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, but it also has engaged in serious efforts during the past few years to convince governments worldwide to assume an adversarial position against President Hugo Chavez.

In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed "six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez's influence" and "reassert US leadership in the region".

Kelly, who played a primary role as "mediator" during last year's coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an "enemy" in his report. "Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends...To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries". Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a "formidable foe", but, he adds, "he certainly can be taken". In 2006, Washington activated a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mission Manager for Venezuela and Cuba. The mission, headed by clandestine CIA veteran Timothy Langford, is one of only four such intelligence entities of its type. The others were created to handle intelligence matters relating to Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan/Pakistan, evidencing the clear priority that Washington has placed on Venezuela as a target of increased espionage and covert operations.

Another suggestion made by Kelly in the secret cable, is a recommendation to increase US presence in the region and improve relations with Latin American military forces. "We should continue to strengthen ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez".

Kelly also proposed a "psychological operations" program against the Venezuelan government to exploit its vulnerabilities. "We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez - his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran - gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly".

Kelly recommended US officials make more visits to the region to "show the flag and explain directly to populations our view of democracy and progress". Kelly also offered details on how Washington could better exploit the differences amongst South American governments to isolate Venezuela:

"Brazil...can be a powerful counterpoint to Chavez's project...Chile offers another excellent alternative to Chavez...We should look to find other ways to give Chile the lead on important initiatives, but without making them look like they are our puppets or surrogates. Argentina is more complex, but still presents distinct characteristics that should inform our approach to countering Chavez's influence there".

Kelly also revealed the pressure Washington has been applying to Mercosur (Market of the South) to not accept Venezuela as a full member in the regional trade bloc. "With regard to Mercosur, we should not be timid in stating that Venezuela's membership will torpedo US interest in even considering direct negotiations with the trading bloc".

The cables published by Wikileaks not only reveal US hostility towards Venezuela, but also the requests made by regional leaders and politicians to work against President Chavez.

One secret document from October 2009 referring to a meeting between Mexican President Felipe Calderon and US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair tells of how Calderon confessed he was "trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group". The Mexican head of state also appealed to the US intelligence chief, "The region needs a visible US presence...the United States must be ready to engage the next Brazilian president. Brazil, he said, is key to restraining Chavez...The US needs to engage Brazil more and influence its outlook".

In several secret documents authored by the US Embassy in Colombia, efforts by ex President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, to convince Washington to take action against Venezuela are evidenced.

In one cable from December 2007, the US Ambassador in Colombia recounts a meeting between Uribe and a delegation of US congress members, including Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. According to the text, Uribe "likened the threat Chavez poses to Latin America to that posed by Hitler in Europe".

And in yet another report summarizing a January 2008 meeting between Uribe and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, Uribe is quoted as recommending military action against Venezuela.

"The best counter to Chavez, in Uribe's view, remains action - including use of the military".

Later in that same secret cable, Uribe urged Washington to "lead a public campaign against counter Chavez..."

In addition to regional politicians and US diplomats urging plans against President Chavez, one cable reveals how during a meeting between a Venezuelan Archbishop and the US Ambassador, the religious leader asked for Washington to act against his own government. At the meeting, which took place in January 2005 according to the document, Archbishop Baltazar Porras told Ambassador William Brownfield that the "US government should be more clear and public in its criticism of the Chavez administration" and that the "international community also needs to work and speak out more to contain Chavez..."

The plans and strategies revealed through these official documents confirm what other evidence has already corroborated regarding Washington's increase in aggression towards Venezuela. The US continues to fund opposition groups that act to undermine Venezuelan democracy while escalating its hostile discourse and policies against the Chavez government.

This week's Senate affirmation of Larry Palmer as Ambassador to Venezuela will only make matters worse. Palmer was rejected by the Venezuelan government after he made negative statements about the Chavez administration in August. Washington's insistence of sending Palmer appears to be an effort to provoke a rupture in diplomatic relations.

NGO PROVEA in Venezuela Paid in U.S. Dollars

Canada & VenezuelaDecember 12, 2010
By Yves Engler

While many on the left know that Washington has spent tens of millions of dollars funding groups that oppose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, less well known is Ottawa's role, especially that of the Canadian government's "arms-length" human rights organization, Rights & Democracy (R&D).

Montreal-based R&D recently gave its 2010 John Humphrey Award to the Venezuelan non-governmental organization PROVEA (El Programa Venezolano de Educacion-Accion en Derechos Humanos). According to R&D's website, "The Award consists of a grant of $30,000 and a [December] speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient's human rights work."

PROVEA is highly critical of Venezuela's elected government. In December 2008 Venezuela's interior and justice minister called PROVEA "liars" who were "paid in [US] dollars."

During a September visit "to meet with representatives of PROVEA and other [Venezuelan] organizations devoted to human rights and democratic development" R&D President, Gerard Latulippe, blogged about his and PROVEA's political views. "Marino [Betancourt, Director General of PROVEA] told me about recent practices of harassment and criminalization of the government towards civil society organizations." In another post Latulippe explained, "We have witnessed in recent years the restriction of the right to freedom of expression. Since 2004-2005, the government of President Chavez has taken important legislative measures which limit this right." Upon returning to Canada, Latulippe cited Venezuela as a country with "no democracy". He told Embassy magazine, "You can see the emergence of a new model of democracy, where in fact it's trying to make an alternative to democracy by saying people can have a better life even if there's no democracy. You have the example of Russia. You have an example of Venezuela."

Latulippe's claims have no basis in reality. On top of improving living conditions for the country's poor, the Chavez-led government has massively increased democratic space through community councils, new political parties and worker cooperatives. They have also won a dozen elections/referendums over the past twelve years (and lost only one).

R&D, which is funded almost entirely by the federal government, takes its cues from Ottawa. The Canadian government has repeatedly attacked Chavez. In April 2009 Stephen Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, "I don't take any of these rogue states lightly" and after expressing "concerns over the shrinkage of democratic space" in September, Minister for the Americas Peter Kent said, "This is an election month in Venezuela and the official media has again fired up some of the anti-Semitic slurs against the Jewish community as happened during the Gaza incursion." Even the head of Canada's military recently criticized the Chavez government in the Canadian Military Journal. After a tour of South America, Walter Natynczyk wrote "Regretably, some countries, such as Venezuela, are experiencing the politicization of their armed forces." The Harper government's attacks against Venezuela are part of its campaign against the region's progressive forces. Barely discussed in the media, the Harper government's shift of aid from Africa to Latin America was largely designed to stunt Latin America's recent rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence by supporting the region's right-wing governments and movements.

To combat independent-minded, socialist-oriented governments and movements Harper's Conservatives have "played a more active role in supporting U.S. ideologically-driven [democracy promotion] initiatives," notes researcher Neil A. Burron. They opened a South America focused "democracy promotion" centre at the Canadian Embassy in Peru. Staffed by two diplomats, this secretive venture may clash with the Organization of American States' non-intervention clause.

According to documents unearthed by Anthony Fenton, in November 2007 Ottawa gave the Justice and Development Consortium (Asociacion Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia) $94,580 "to consolidate and expand the democracy network in Latin America and the Caribbean." Also funded by the U.S. government's CIA front group National Endowment for Democracy, the Justice and Development Consortium has worked to unite opposition to leftist Latin American governments. Similarly, in the spring of 2008 the Canadian Embassy in Panama teamed up with the National Endowment for Democracy to organize a meeting for prominent members of the opposition in Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador. It was designed to respond to the "new era of populism and authoritarianism in Latin America." The meeting spawned the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia, "which brings together mainstream NGOs critical of the leftist governments in the hemisphere." The foremost researcher on U.S. funding to the anti-Chavez opposition, Eva Golinger, claims Canadian groups are playing a growing role in Venezuela and according to a May 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, "Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance" to Venezuela after the U.S. and Spain. Burron describes an interview with a Canadian "official [who] repeatedly expressed concerns about the quality of democracy in Venezuela, noting that the [Federal government's] Glyn Berry program provided funds to a 'get out the vote' campaign in the last round of elections in that country." You can bet it wasn't designed to get Chavez supporters to the polls.

Ottawa is not forthcoming with information about the groups they fund in Venezuela, but according to disclosures made in response to a question by former NDP Foreign Affairs critic Alexa McDonough, Canada helped finance Sumate, an NGO at the forefront of anti-Chavez political campaigns. Canada gave Sumate $22,000 in 2005-06. Minister of International Cooperation Jose Verner explained that "Canada considered Sumate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela." Yet the name of Sumate leader Maria Corina Machado, who Foreign Affairs invited to Ottawa in January 2005, appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason.

The simple truth is that the current government in Ottawa supports the old elites that long worked with the U.S. empire. It opposes the progressive social transformations taking place in a number of Latin American countries and as a result it supports civil society groups opposed to these developments.

Yves Engler's the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy . For more info:

Venezuelan Government and Civil Society Increase Flood Relief for Thousands of Rain Victims

Venezuelan Government and Civil Society Increase Flood Relief for Thousands of Rain Victims
by James Suggett
Dec 7th 2010

Mérida, December 7th 2010 – In response to heavy flooding caused by two weeks of torrential rains, the Venezuelan government declared a 90-day state of emergency in four additional states yesterday and announced a $2.3 billion (10 billion bolivars) special fund for flood victims.

The states of Zulia, Mérida Trujillo, and Nueva Esparta were added to the list of seven other states where official emergencies have been declared with the purpose of “allowing decisions to move forward that transcend the power and the capacity of the local governments,” according to President Hugo Chavez.

Nearly half of Venezuela’s states are now in an official state of emergency.
The president pledged that the 10 billion bolivars will be drawn from the National Reserve Fund and used toward “an integral reconstruction plan” for every community impacted by the rains. In addition, the government will use profits from the state-owned telecommunications company, CANTV, to pay a 1,223 bolivar ($284) holiday “bonus” to each of the 5,000 families – approximately 20,000 people – who were forced from their homes by the flooding.

Chavez has been on a non-stop, nation-wide, night and day tour of the areas affected by the flooding.
On Monday, during a visit to the rural, mostly indigenous Guajira region of northwestern Zulia, Chavez described the situation as “very dramatic.”

“The Guajira is underwater. It is a sea in the Guajira... we saw people leaving their homes with children in water up to their chests,” Chavez said as he met with hundreds of flood victims on national television.“The water swept away a dignified soldier who we still haven’t found. I am filled with dismay, very impacted, and sensitized to the calamity that the people are living,” Chavez said.

To house the flood victims, starting on Saturday and throughout the coming months the government will gradually hand over 1,045 recently nationalized homes and apartments in the capital city of Caracas as well as in the states of Miranda, Trujillo and Zulia.

Chavez also announced that 4.3 billion bolivars ($1 billion) earned from a recent sale of oil refineries to Russia will be earmarked for new housing construction for the flood victims.

In the meantime, the Venezuelan head of state issued a decree obligating large luxury hotels to open their doors temporarily to people displaced by the mudslides, rains, and flooding.

“How are we going to permit these huge luxury hotels to be here, while people outside are up to their necks in rain?” Chavez declared after giving the nationally televised order to occupy the hotels.

Chavez repeatedly called for “order” in the process of transporting people and occupying the hotels and charged National Guard General Luis Motto to manage the proces.

In an interview with the state television station VTV, General Motto stressed that there is no seizure of private property occurring at the hotels as some media outlets have alleged, and that the government is coordinating with the hotel owners for the temporary occupation.

“It is completely calm here. The private management is collaborating willingly. The hotel owners have communicated with us and up until now they have offered 150 bedrooms,” said Motto amidst a group of flood refugees outside of the Higuerote Hotel near Caracas.

The opposition television channel Globovision interviewed the vice president of the National Federation of Hotels, Ricardo Cusanno, who stated: “We are always open to helping, but within a cordial relationship in which the rules are clear.”

Civil Society Efforts
A number of independent efforts by people and organizations around the country have also strengthened the overall response to Venezuela’s worst rain in 40 years.

The Venezuelan Network of Afro-Descendants has opened its Center for Integral Studies of the African Diaspora in the coastal region of Barlovento to house and provide basic services to flood victims.

Several labor unions and community organizations have also initiated spontaneous efforts to aid flood victims. The state-funded leftist youth organization Frente Francisco de Miranda has sent brigades of relief workers to affected communities nation-wide.

María Rosa Jimenez, a national coordinator of the Frente Francisco de Miranda, described the civil society relief effort to the state television station VTV: “What is happening is the people are deepening their solidarity with one another, and their trust in the government, which has shown its face,” she said.

“The crisis is the product of the economic and social model we live in,” Jimenez said, reiterating the argument made by many Venezuelan socialists that capitalism has caused environmental destruction that in turn has created natural disasters such as the recent rains.

“Whatever the government of President Hugo Chavez does, those who sustain this model and the private media that serve it and serve the historically dominant classes are going to try to generate fear and fabricate a reality that is not the one the people are living,” said Jimenez.

Government officials and members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela have repeatedly called on the Catholic Church and the opposition-controlled state and local governments to help in the flood relief effort by opening their facilities to people displaced by the rains and by actively helping the relief effort.

Venezuela experienced a record-setting drought in 2009 that nearly shutdown the nation’s largest dam and contributed to a national electricity shortage. The recent rains have punctuated a particularly heavy rainy season this year.

David Sánchez of the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology announced yesterday that light rains are expected to continue in Venezuela’s eastern and Andean regions.

The last two weeks of rains have caused the death of 35 people, destroyed the homes of more than 5,000 people, and led more than 70,000 to flee their homes and take refuge in hundreds of emergency tent camps, hotels, and government buildings including the presidential palace and other structures that have been transformed into shelters.

New Health Care Agreement With Cuba

45,174 Venezuelans received free medical assistance in Cuba
November 30, 2010

“It has been 10 years after the endorsement of the Comprehensive Health Agreement Cuba-Venezuela and the results can be clearly seen: 45,174 Venezuelan affected by different pathologies went to Cuba in order to receive assistance for their health problems.” Explained the coordinator of the cooperation program Johnny Ramos.

Ramos assured that there are cases of patients who were declared terminally ill in health centers of Venezuela. These people suffered from cancer, CVAs and conditions in their vital organs. They underwent a proper medical treatment in Cuba and now enjoy perfect health and have a better quality of life.

He explained that one of the conclusions about the neglect of patients with serious diseases is that a significant number of Venezuelan doctors have a mercantilist conception of health. Thus, doctors send home patients who cannot afford a medical treatment.

“In Venezuela, there are excellent doctors, they are among the best of the world. The difference stems from the point of view in which medicine is considered. Venezuelan doctors had the idea of making money, while in Cuba they have the idea to help those human beings in need.” Ramos pointed out.

“We understand than a professional of medicine has studied to have a better life but a persons health cannot be priced, and that is what has occurred in our health care system.” He said.

However, thanks to the agreement endorsed by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, the philosophical conception of health in Venezuela is being transformed through the education of new professionals of the Latin American Medicine School (ELAM).

More than 1,000 graduates are doing postgraduate courses in Cuba and Venezuela to date. A group of these postgraduates have joined the flagship bi-national health program: Mission Barrio Adentro. “The directors Mission Barrio Adentro are Venezuelan. There are currently around 10,000 students in the last year of the medicine school and all of them are professionals with another way to conceive medicine, as socialist medicine, in which people is not treated as merchandise.”

Another decade to go
On November 10, President Hugo Chávez Frías and Raúl Castro Ruz ratified the comprehensive agreement for another decade.

Ramos stated that this new phase has the aim to create centers of specialized assistance. The main objective during the first ten years was to consolidate Mission Barrio Adentro in its phases I, II and III, which include primary health care, comprehensive care, Centers of Comprehensive Diagnosis, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Rooms and restoration of public hospitals.

“The specialized centers allow not only to give assistance to the patients, but also to contribute to the education of the human resources. We are currently working on the creation of the Oncological Hospital, the National Center for Neurological Restoration and the National Center for the Treatment of Addictions.” Ramos remarked.

The agreement will enter a new phase in 2011: “10,000 Venezuelan doctors will join the program. They are going to progressively replace our Cuban brothers because the health system is intended to be managed by Venezuelans.” He added.

Ministry of Peoples Power for Foreign Affairs

Self-Emancipation and Struggle Are the Keys to Changing the World

Dear Friends,

Putting Humans Back in Socialism is a new book by Michael Lebowitz which draws on his more than ten-year experience in Venezuela. Referring to what President Hugo Chavez calls "the elementary triangle of socialism" -- social ownership of the means of production, social production organised by workers, and production for communal needs -- Lebowitz outlines what is at the heart of this radical alternative for the 21st Century.
Putting Humans Back into Socialismby Federico Fuentes
Book Review: The Socialist Alternative by Michael Lebowitz, Monthly Review Press, 2010, 192 pages; US$15.95

The onset of the global economic crisis in mid 2008, symbolised by the collapse of some of Wall Street's most iconic companies, led to soaring sales of Karl Marx's seminal work Das Kapital, as many sought explanations to the tumultuous events unfolding.

Although written more than 100 years ago, this devastating and insightful dissection of how capital functions is still a powerful tool for people looking to understand and change the world.

Marx's aim was to provide a handbook for working-class activists that unravelled the logic of capital and its inherently exploitative nature. Marx said this was necessary because as long as workers did not understand that capital was the result of their exploitation, they would not be able to defeat their enemy.

Michael Lebowitz's latest book, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development says it is essential also to investigate the important insights Marx made regarding the alternative.

This easily accessible book is written to provide young and working-class socialist militants a weapon in their struggle for a better world.

It is hard to agree more with Bill Fletcher Jr., when he says this book "should be the focus of discussion groups of activists as they attempt to unite their radical practice with theorising a radical, democratic and Marxist alternative for the future".

Lebowitz rejects the old saying that "if we don't know where we want to go, any path will take us there." Rather, if you don't know where you are going, no path will lead you there.

Lebowitz says: "The purpose of this book is to point to an alternative path" focused on the "full development of human potential".

Pulling together the different threads in Marx's various sketches on socialism, and drawing on his own personal experiences and studies on "real existing socialism," social democracy, and most importantly, Venezuela's struggle for a new socialism for the 21st Century, The Socialist Alternative aims to "develop a general vision of socialism and concrete directions for struggle".

Lebowitz's idea of socialism breaks from the dominant vision that prioritises "the development of productive forces" that, supposedly, will one day provide abundance and "allow everyone to consume and consume in accordance with their needs".

Instead, he places humans at the centre of its focus.
The book does not set out to be about the Bolivarian process in Venezuela -- Lebowitz has lived in Venezuela since 2004 -- but many of the ideas in it will be familiar to those acquainted with the ideas being debated today within a mass movement where the idea of socialism has gripped the mind of the masses and converted itself into a material force for change.

The idea that self-emancipation and struggle are the keys to changing the world and people is essential to Lebowitz's argument.

Citing Friedrich Engels, Lebowitz maintains that the aim of communists is "to organise society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capacities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic condition of this society".

The only way to do so is through "revolutionary practice" because human development is not a gift given from on high. Marx explained that revolutionary struggle produces a simultaneous "changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change".

Put another way, "without the protagonism that transforms people, you cannot produce the people who belong in the good society … and understand that the development of the human capacities on the one side [cannot be] based on the restriction of development on the other".

Capitalism offers no alternative in this regard. Rather, it is a system based on a "vicious cycle".

People have real needs but do not possess the means to satisfy them. They are therefore forced to work for those that do (capitalists) and compete against others in repetitive labour, so as to be able to buy at least some of the products they need.

Lebowitz says: "Add to this the fact that workers' needs to consume grow as a result of the combination of the alienation (the impoverishment, the "complete emptying-out) characteristic of capitalist production and the constant generation of new needs by capital in its attempt to sell commodities, and it is easy to see why workers are compelled to continually present themselves in the labour market".

This vicious cycle never stops under capitalism. Capital requires workers to see the cycle as a "normal" part of life.

"The advance of capitalist production develops a working class which by education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirement of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws," wrote Marx in Capital.

Today however, capital is haunted by the spectre of "socialism for the 21st century".
Drawing on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and what he calls "the elementary triangle of socialism" -- social ownership of the means of production, social production organised by workers, and production for communal needs -- Lebowitz outlines what is at the heart of this radical alternative for the 21st Century.

Private ownership of the means of production must be replaced with social ownership of the products of social heritage and social labour as the "only way to ensure that these are used in the interests of society and not for private gain".

But social and state ownership are not the same. A real socialist alternative requires a "profound democracy from below rather than decisions by a state that stands over and above society", where all workers are able to develop their human capacities.

Critical to this is the second side of the triangle: Social production.

In opposition to the command-and-obey workplace, a socialist alternative must be based on the replacement of the division of labour between those that think (intellectual labour) and those that do (manual labour).

This artificial division can best be overcome with collective democratic decision-making in the workplace.

To complete the triangle of social ownership and worker management, Lebowitz says productive activity must be geared towards the needs of others.

That is, the creation of a society based on solidarity, where there is an exchange "not of exchange values but 'of activities, determined by communal needs and communal purposes'".

The second half of the book deals with how we get there: "Knowing where you want to go is only the first part; it's not at all the same as knowing how to get there."

Here again, Lebowitz puts stress on revolutionary practice. He says the impulse for the development of socialism must be the drive of workers for their own human development.

Workers need not only "seize possession of production" to introduce worker management and communal production. They also need to "seize possession of the state" and conquer political power.

As the Communist Manifesto says: "The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class."

From this position of power, "the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state".

The experience of the Paris Commune convinced Marx and Engels workers could not use the ready existing state for its own purposes; rather it had to be smashed and replaced by a new state of "self-working and self-governing communes".

So the struggle for a socialist transformation must unfold on two fronts: within the state that owns the means of production, and in the workplaces.

But the struggle also unfolds within the context of an emerging new society that is, said Marx, "economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old [capitalist] society from whose womb it emerges".

For the struggle to succeed, it is vital to fight consciously against the "defects" inherited from the old society and subordinate -- rather than try to use -- these defects to one's ends.

Lebowitz is opposed to a vision of socialism that suggests it must pass through distinct stages, where priority is first given to developing the productive forces to create a world of abundance, and says this was not Marx's view.

Chapter six, "Making a path to socialism", offers a kind of transitional program for socialism in the 21st century.

Lebowitz's starting point is that the transition towards socialism must move forward simultaneously on all three fronts of the socialist triangle.

He says every concrete measure must serve to change circumstances while helping to produce revolutionary subjects and raise their capacities.

"Only in a revolution," wrote Marx and Engels, can the working class "succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew."

Threats to this revolutionary process are always present from counter-revolutionary capitalist elements, the tendency of bureaucrats to "seize production" for themselves and the tendency to rely on the market to resolve problems.

To combat this, a "socialist mode of regulation" is essential to allow socialism to subordinate all elements of society to itself, and create the organs it still lacks.

This encompasses an ideological struggle against capitalism and for socialism ("The Battle of Ideas"); the creation of worker and community councils where people can organise to change their circumstances and themselves at the same time; and "a state that supports this struggle ideologically, economically, and militarily and thus serves as the midwife for the birth of the new society".

At this point, Lebowitz asks a central question: "What do we mean by the state

"We have to talk about two states here -- one, the state that workers captured at the outset and that initiates despotic inroads upon capital, that is, the old state; and, second, the emerging new state based upon workers councils and neighbourhood councils as its cells.

"The two must coexist and interact throughout this process of becoming.

"The inherent tension between these two states -- between the top-down orientation from within the old state and the bottom-up emphasis of the workers and community councils -- is obvious."

"Yet," Lebowitz argues adamantly, "that tension is not the principle contradiction."

Given the presence of revolutionaries in the old state, it would be an error to act as if it was the same as the capitalist state.

Similarly, it would be a mistake to ignore the vices of the old society present in the embryonic forms of the new state.

The struggle against bureaucrats seeking to defend their privileges or ideological inertia will unfold within both states.

At the same time, Lebowitz says, "interaction between the two states is essential".

The old state has the advantage of being able to see the picture as a whole and concentrate forces, but it also has a tendency to act from above and prioritise expediency over revolutionary practice.

The new organs can identify "the needs and capacities of people and can mobilise people to link those needs and capacities directly".

But there is also a tendency towards localism and the new emerging state "is not capable at the outset of making essential decisions that require concentration and coordination of forces".

Critical to all this is a political instrument -- or political party -- that can provide leadership. This is needed because a society marked by the vices of the old cannot produce a process where all workers become socialists at the same time.

But a new kind of leadership that "fosters revolutionary practice only by continuously learning from below. There is, in short, a process of interaction, a dialectic between the political instrument and popular movements.

"By itself, the former becomes a process of command from above; by itself, the latter cannot develop a concept of the whole -- that is, it cannot transcend localism."

The Socialist Alternative is an inspiring and insightful contribution to the discussion of rebuilding the socialist project in light of past failures and the current challenges facing anti-capitalist activists everywhere.

No doubt here in Australia, in the context of the resources boom and the growing environmental crisis, the ideas raised in the book regarding social ownership and the need to struggle for transparency -- "open the books" -- will provide much food for thought for ecosocialists in the battles that lie ahead of us.