Chavez’s socialism means more classes


BOB MOON: In Venezuela, the policies of Hugo Chavez have moved the country towards what he calls “21st century socialism.” The left-leaning president has already nationalized the telecom, electricity and oil industries. Now, his government is going to provide workers with four hours of free classes each week. Training . . . in Marxism. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: Venezuela’s Labor Minister, Jose Ramon Rivero, says the classes will start next week for some government workers. And they’ll be obligatory. Rivero says laws forcing private companies to offer similar instruction will follow shortly.

President Chavez has accelerated his socialist revolution since being re-elected in December. Still, his latest measure left observers speechless.

LARRY BIRNS: Uh, well, that’s astonishing.

Larry Birns is with the left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

BIRNS: Certainly, it’s not gonna be effective. It’s gonna generate more laughter than respect. And I think it’s a counterproductive move.

More counterproductive than you might initially think, says Venezuela-based journalist Phil Gunson.

PHIL GUNSON: If the standard working week is 40 hours, and four hours are to be taken out of that for socialist education, that’s a 10 percent reduction in productivity.

But Chavez calls his socialist education one of the five engines of his revolution.

Mark Weisbrot’s with the Center for Economic Policy Research.

MARK WEISBROT: These kinds of measures may sound radical, but the situation in the economy is still very much one of gradual reform.

Gradual, in part, because Chavez’s socialist vision conflicts with the reality of Venezuela’s consumerist society. Classes in Marxism could take years to change that.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.