ZNet Book Interview with Gregory Wilpert
ZNet Book Interview with Gregory Wilpert
Can you tell ZNet, please, what Changing
As the book's title suggests, the book is also an indirect polemic with John Holloway's notion of "Change the World without Taking Power." In effect, I try to show that it is possible to change the world for the better by taking (state) power and that the Venezuelan experience even shows that such state power might be necessary if we want to achieve social justice now, rather than in a century or so.
Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
Writing this book was a particularly long and arduous process for me. Not only is this my first book, but (presumably just as many authors who aren't paid to write books) I had to balance regular work commitments and family life while working on it. I first started working on it shortly after launching the website Venezuelanalysis.com in September 2003. I originally thought I could simply use the articles I wrote for that site and compile them into a book. However, after a little while I realized that this was not all that feasible and began writing the book in parallel to the work I did for the site. As a result, only very little of what appears in the book is also on Venezuelanalysis.com. The book's content thus comes from my own research and writing while working on the site or from things I learnt from others who wrote articles for the site. Also, over the years I had the opportunity to interview many high-level government officials, to gain insights into their policies and their thinking. The one interview I was not able to get for the book, though, was with President Chavez himself, which is quite disappointing because I really wanted to talk to him about his belief system. Obviously, Chavez plays a very crucial role for the policies of his government and too many interviews with him simply cover old ground, about his upbringing and his experiences as president. What is really needed is an in-depth discussion with him about his political belief system.
What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
My hope is that the book will have an impact, first, among progressives, to show to them that something very important is happening in
This is a very tricky subject, of course, because often people believe solidarity should not be critical or should be without reservations because anything else would be an imposition of our own imperial views on another people. This is true, in a sense, if we are clear about who we are in solidarity with - the government or the people. Of course, if the answer is, "with the people," then critical support for the Chavez government is, in my opinion, the only kind of support one should give. This is the perspective I try to take in my book and my analysis takes me to precisely this kind of critical support. I thus hope my book will both draw more people into supporting the Chavez government, but that they do so with their eyes wide open, unlike what all too often happened with earlier socialist movements, such as with the Russian Revolution.
My second hope is that this book might have an impact in the broader culture (beyond progressives), in moving it away from the mostly negative conception of current events in Venezuela and to appreciate that there is a sincere effort to create a society that is neither capitalist, nor social democratic, nor state socialist, but wants to create a new kind of socialism, a more participatory socialism for the 21st century.
The real test of success of this book's efforts (and that of others like it) would be if it were able to avert further
Also, I am aiming this book at Venezuelan readers (it has been translated and will soon be published in Venezuela), in the hope that Venezuelans too might gain something from this analysis - that die hard "Chavistas" might stop confusing Chavez with the people and that die-hard opposition people might see that most of what the government has done has benefited the country's poor majority. Also, I hope that the book will contribute to the discussion within