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In addition to noting our regular daily updating of content, and to sending you 
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We have a new book facility. It is at http://www.zmag.org/BookWeek/BookWeek.cfm 

It is conceived to enable ZNet users to propose, vote on, comment on, and 
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The second new facility is called Action of the Week. It is at 

It is very similar to the book facility. Users can propose, comment on, vote 
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among users. 

With a lot of participation, the facilities have tremendous potential. With 
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the facilities would be quite valuable. BUT, with very meager and even 
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On the other hand, if participation jumps way up, we think the book of the week 
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It costs nothing for you to participate. It takes only modest time. It 
registers your views. It creates momentum to further participation by others. 
Seems like a small risk for a potentially large pay off.

While I easily understand particular individuals not having time, or not 
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- I do not understand virtually the entire community ignoring the possibility 
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We think it would be vastly better for the ZNet community to undertake its own 
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Thank you,
Michael Albert


And here, for a little parallel motivation, is a report from Venezuela. This 
essay is, by the way, to be tonight's ZNet Commentary. We mail a ZNet Sustainer 
Commentary each night to all our Sustainers. If you aren't a ZNet Sustainer, we 
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Venezuela - the country of parallels 
I - The parallel revolution
By America Vera-Zavala

On a parallel street, within walking distance from the presidential palace, you 
can find a squatted building taken over and run by communities. It is an old 
office building, very close to one of the most touristic squares in downtown 
Caracas: Bellas Artes and the huge hotel Hilton, which nowadays also hosts 
Bolivarian conferences and friends of the revolution. A theatre rehearsal is 
the activity on the Saturday afternoon when I visit the building. People of all 
ages are represented on that main floor built to be a fancy reception and not a 
centre for community activities. 

The building was squatted one year ago, and apparently there seems to be quite 
a few central squatted buildings, but no network exists between them to serve 
you with more facts. This one has been flourishing ever since it was taken 
over. In this building people live, eat, make political and cultural meetings 
and most of the campaigns the president has set off are functioning there. El 
proceso, the process, as the revolution is popularly called is at work there.

The proclaimed Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is a revolution made up of 
parallels. To win elections is not the same as to take state power and in 
Venezuela opposition still holds many posts in the various departments, state 
owned companies and media, and control much of the economy. The over cumbersome 
bureaucracy within the government although not partisan, is slowing down the 
process as they go on doing the way they always did, and they have not received 
an education in new Bolivarian public management. 

In fact a new Bolivarian Public Management School doesn't exist. Leaders of the 
revolution; governors, mayors, ministers, officials, bureaucrats, members of 
parliaments are persons that should be executing the paragraphs in the 
constitution and making them real, planning and organising the process, 
guaranteeing that the objectives are met but for various reasons it doesn't 
seem to be working as smoothly as it should. Together they constitute a thick 
middle layer in society making change hard. The president's answer to that has 
been parallelism - a political strategy not yet labelled. Parallelism is being 
practised by the president as well as on a grassroots level - the people. 

An important part of what is actually being won in the process is created 
through parallels. If the health sector in the country is not willing to serve 
poor people - the president creates a parallel, brings in hundreds of Cuban 
doctors and lets them work. 

If the educational sector is working poorly and apparently has not been 
fighting illiteracy - he creates a parallel, develops education programs and 
makes the communities responsible for their functioning. 

If the shops are not selling affordable food - he creates a parallel, creates 
subsidised shops, and if people are still going hungry - he creates another 
parallel, provide food and make the communities responsible for cooking and 
sharing the meals. 

And the parallels are working - soon illiteracy will be exterminated. The 
left-wing theory of creating parallel powers to break down and end the old 
order is here taken to new breathtaking heights. 

President Chavez is not only creating a parallel bank, health and education 
programs, and a parallel to the CNN - Telesur. There is even a very popular 
soap opera, Amores de Barrio Adentro, (which is the same name as the health 
program) about love over class boundaries set in the political Venezuelan 
atmosphere - as a parallel to other soaps. 

In the squatted building on the parallel street to the presidential palace, the 
community run revolution is effective. "Here we have mission Robinson and 
mission Ribas, people come here to learn how to read and write, we coordinate 
the Cuban doctors and we provide food for poor people. We also have Bolivarian 
circles, popular education and cultural activities, like the theatre you saw. I 
am an educator, and give courses on cooperatives. But we don't want anything to 
do with political parties." 

The man who shows me around in the community centre underlines that they are 
not political. On the walls there are several Che Guevara posters, Arafat's 
face with a message of a free Palestine, Bolivar the liberator, and Chavez, of 
course. I smile and repeat: so you're not political and nod at Che. "We are not 
political because we don't like political parties", he insists. 

After the No victory in the 2004 referendum Chavez proposed that all campaign 
activists should become social activists. The people in the occupied house have 
successfully taken on that transformation. "In many places it has not worked, 
the electoral units have ceased to exist, but here we work even harder" the man 
tells me. Some time ago the squatted house faced a possible eviction. The 
municipality wanted to do something else with the house. "We called for a big 
assembly, to talk about the situation and decided to fight to stay, and until 
now we are here, making the revolution", he says with pride. 

The various parallels launched by the president are all dressed in either a 
military language or named after historic personalities from important moments 
in liberation struggle. You could divide them into two main fields: electoral 
campaigns and social transformation movements. 

To win all elections he has had to trust the base. He set up parallel actions 
to guarantee the votes from all those supporting the process, but not being 
touched by traditional campaigns or possibly facing harassments for being 
chavistas. The outcome has been a great success every time and for the 2006 
presidential election Chavez has set up the goal of 10 million votes. 

The social missions, misíones, could be divided into four main areas: 
education, vocational training, health and nutrition. Misíon Robinson is for 
basic education and is the weapon to erase illiteracy in the country. Misíon 
Ribas prepares high school students for university education. Misíon Vuelvan 
Caras is to train workers and prepare them for future employment. Misión Barrio 
Adentro has taken in Cuban doctors to serve in small community built clinics in 
the barrios, the Venezuelan word for slums. Misíon Milagro (miracle) performs 
operations on patients with cataract and glaucoma and makes people see again. 
Mercal is the name for the subsidized food shops you find all over the country. 
Another food program provides free food to barrios, community members prepare 
it and give one cooked meal a day to children, single mothers, pregnant women, 
elderly people etc. 

All the missions are run by communities. They organise the set up of the 
clinics, the education halls, recruit voluntary teachers, make schedules and 
solve thousands of problems that come up. They do it on voluntary basis and 
they reach out to many. The health program, Barrio Adentro I, was launched in 
April 2003 and has already passed over 100 million consultations. People who 
have never seen a doctor in their entire life before has now had multiple 

The parallels and their effects are an important reason for the massive popular 
support of the process. Interviewing a community activist in the legendary 
neighbourhood 23 de Enero, I ask what he thinks makes the process important: 
"The process has dignified people and given us an opportunity to express what 
we think, without being ashamed of ourselves. The Bolivarian revolution has 
also succeeded in mobilising people, and making us feel that this process is 
ours, we are co-responsible for it. If it doesn't work I am responsible for 
that failure too. And we are included in education and health programs." 

People here know repression and exclusion; they have lived it on a daily basis 
since the squatting of the newly built colourful modern blocks on January 23rd 
1958, the day the dictator, Perez Jimenez, was overthrown. That was a time of 
mobilisation and popular democratic aspirations, until the people were betrayed 
and the neighbourhood repressed. This time there has been no treason. 

On my way down from 23 de Enero I see a slogan, written big in red and black on 
a wall: Al pasado no regresaremos jamás! We will never return to the past! This 
seems to be very well rooted in people's minds. They know things have changed, 
and to the better, that is why they are the ones making the revolution real, 
but not without criticism. 

The opposition in Venezuela is called escualidos, and that term has been 
generalised to be used against anyone making the process difficult. People want 
the elected politicians, mayors, governors and officials to work properly for a 
common good and too often they see things work in the bad old way, with 
corruption, positioning, and meaningless fights over power. The parallels are 
the new tracks created to go around the old ones - parallel lines never 
intersect. In that way, you avoid confrontation in a country were opposition 
has been violent and people need time to consolidate and build and not only 
confront. But people are impatient to see the parallels become the main tracks.

President Hugo Chavez is a phenomenon, not so much for 8 hour long speeches 
which is rather old school, but for an amazing way of directly communicating 
with the base. Somehow he avoids the thick middle layer and puts forward the 
people's thoughts and ideas. 

President Chavez is the initiator, the developer, the ideologist and at the 
same time, the hardest criticiser of the process. The ideas he refines and puts 
forward in speeches are thoughts being formulated at the grassroots level. In 
the memorial speech three years after the coup president Chavez said that what 
has to die has not yet died, and what has to be born has not yet completed its 

That is the core of the present Venezuelan parallelism - the old tracks are 
still parallel with the new ways. A change of tracks is not easy but it can be 
done. The squatted house is as close, or as far, as the various government 
institutions are to the presidential palace. If they are the ones stimulating 
the process maybe they should be recognised as a community centre, fed with 
resources, and on the other hand the institutions slowing down the process 
should be put on a diet.

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