Monday, November 27, 2006

Six Days Before the Elections...

This morning the HOV delegation attended a rally at Plaza Bolivar in support of TeleSur journalist Freddy Muñoz who has been detained and is being accused of supporting terrorist. There is some background information available here.

The heart of Plaza Bolivar: A Statue of El Libertador

Several of us from the HOV delegation were interviewed by Venezuelan State Television (Channel 8), the Bolivarian (State) News Agency (ABN), ViveTV, Aporrea, and the newspaper VEA. We extended a message of support for Freddy, and also connected these kinds of attacks on independent journalists with provocations against Venezuela in general, and with as the murder of Brad Will in Oaxaca.

Interviewed in Plaza Bolivar

I was asked to speak from the stage, and I made some unprepared remarks which were well received with quite a lot of enthusastic applause. [It is a bit awkward to report on one's own speech, but I guess that's how blogs work!]

I sent a message of solidarity from the international HOV campaign, and from the people of the U.S. I explained that the HOV is an international campaign active in over 30 countries. I reminded them that in the U.S. we have been ruled for decades by government that don't really represent the people, just as had been the case in Venezuela for decades before Chavez. I emphasized (and people nodded their heads in agreement) that working Americans are not the same as George Bush.

I also explained that the U.S. has revolutionary and militant traditions: that even before Simon Bolivar had liberated Venezuela from Spanish rule, the U.S. had waged a revolutionary war of liberation from British imperialism. I also pointed out the militant labor traditions of the U.S. working class.

I then explained that the many Venezuelan brothers and sisters that have come to the U.S. always tell us that the best way to solidarize with the Bolivarian revolution is to fight for and win the socialist revolution in the U.S. (this was met with applause). But I explained that the U.S. working class also needs the solidarity of the people of Venezuela, and that the best way to do that was to complete the revolution, to deepen the revolution towards genuine socialism here in Venezuela. This was also met with applause.

I then thanked everyone, and invited them to get involved in HOV here in Venezuela, and to come to some of the activities we have planned for the next few days. Several people came up to ask questions and get more information afterwards.

We then went to a book premiere by Eva Gollinger, of her new book "Bush vs. Chavez - Washington's War Against Venezuela". On the way, we passed Simon Bolivar's house:
"Simon Bolivar was Born here on July 24, 1783"

Some general observations on the day after the massive demo. The mood is not super tense, but things are definitely polarized. The mood among the pro-Chavez masses is very confident - but they already have an eye on the tasks to come after the election. As I noted yesterday, it is not a naive joy and enthusiasm.

Unlike the mood at the time of the August 15, 2004 referendum, when there was a general unity of the Bolivarian movement as a whole, now, more than 2 years later, the divisions within the "chavista" movement are becoming clear. The infamous "closet escualidos" - who speak of socialism and revolution and wear red berets, but who are in reality conservative reformists moving might and main to paralyze and hold back the revolution from within - are much hated by the workers and the poor. The masses are still with Chavez, but vehemently against the increasingly openly counter-revolutionary clique that surrounds him.

This is already having an effect on certain layers. On the metro we had a lively conversation with several people (packed like sardines at rush hour!). It was mostly chavistas, with a few escualidos (more on that below). But one woman, from Petare, told us that she is simply going to abstain. She has voted for Chavez on every other occasion, but she feels that little has really been accomplished. Her local mayor (son of the Vice President Rangel!), is known for corruption, etc. She is already disillusioned. This is precisely the danger of not completing the socialist revolution! The biggest danger to the revolution is within.

Generally speaking, the masses are happy with the changes so far, but there is still far to go - and already for some, tirednes is setting in. The proposal by a left-wing member of the National Assembly that ALL politicians should re-legitimize their positions right now gets a good echo. After all, if Chavez needs to be religitimized, why not all of them? The dream of this layer is chavismo - but without Chavez and his pesky penchant for feeling the pressure of the masses. Those elected a year or more ago reflect an earlier stage of the revolution - but the slogans and aims of that earlier stage are now turning into their opposite.

For example, the 1999 Constitution was a tremendous step forward after decades of virtual dictatorship. But now the reformists are seizing on its often vague formulations to give the idea of "socialism" their own reformist content - above all, the defense of private property of the means of production. For all the talk of participatory democracy (and it is far more democratic and participatory than before), it is still in essence a representative democracy, and with that, all the old evils are re-emerging in a different form. The same goes for other formerly dynamic and revolutionary initiatives - the sclerosis of bureaucratism is setting in and threatens the revolution with a fatal heart attack.

Another anecdote. Once the waiter at the place we ate lunch at realized we were supporters of the process, he warmed to us and opened up to us. He explained: "what people don't understand is that Chavez is taking power from above, and re-distributing it below." He illustrated this in detail with his hands. He agreed that effectively, the revolution has just begun, that there is a lot more to do. He was enthusiastic about our presence and wanted more information on the campaign.

The bottom line is the following (and the masses know this deep down): the two main tasks confronting the social revolution remain: to expropriate the capitalists economically and to smash the old 4th republican capitalist state apparatus, replacing it with a regime of workers democracy based on popular assemblies, linked up nationally. Only this can qualitatively change the situation. The elections are a vital turning point, and the working and poor masses are acutely aware of it. But as of yet they lack a clear way forward.

A clear example and lead from the working class is needed. The factory occupation of Sanitarios de Maracay could well be the spark that shows the way forward. It is vital that we mobilize the labor movement internationally to raise awareness and pressure the government to expropriate the factory under workers' control. The reformists here in Venezuela and even elements in the state media is not letting this story out.

In the end, the escualidos did end up with quite a large demo on Saturday (the largest in some time), but it paled in comparison with the sea of red that englufed Caracas on Sunday - a clear response by the Bolivarian masses that they are still energeized and prepared for anything the opposition cares to dish up.

The escualidos appear to be in a bit of a depressed mood today. Already they are preparing for their loss (what is being called "Plan B"). Today they discovered 30,000 - 40,000 black shirts with the word "Fraud!" on them - in preparation to not accept the results of the elections - they know they can't win and are already preparing to try and destablize the country...

Generally speaking, they are more aggressive and loud about their views. The chavistas - although the majority - are much more circumspect about their political orietation. On the metro (mostly filled with chavistas), a lone supporter of Rosales was yelling loudly and aggressively against everyone else. The chavistas yelled back good-naturedly and in a funny way, turning the tables creatively and causing raucous laghter. But it is clear that when push comes to shove, things won't be this calm and friendly. Remember: "no volveran!" ["they will not return!"] was a popular slogan on Sunday - and the masses mean it.

Also, we've seen many reserve soldiers (many women!) on the streets, and they confidently say that everything is prepared to keep things calm and safe this coming weekend.

We're happy to report that the delegates from HOV in Sweden have also arrived, we ran into them by chance at the above-mentioned restaurant, and we will be coordinating our activities. This is truly an international delegation!

Finally, we are very concerned to hear that events in Oaxaca have taken a turn for the worse. The counter-revolution is openly seeking to decapitate the movement - literally. Arrests, beatings, disappearances, etc. are being stepped up. Oaxaca is surrounded, and we must mobilize around the world to break the siege. We will do our part here in Venezuela to let people know what is happening!

Until tomorrow!



Fred Bergen said...

Presidential Elections in Venezuela
Faced with the lack of an independent working-class candidate: Cast a blank ballot

By: Mario López
Source: En Clave Obrera N° 8
Thursday 16 November 2006

In the current electoral process we call for a blank-ballot vote, in the face of the lack of an independent working-class candidacy that represents the workers of Venezuela. Clearly the candidacy of Manuel Rosales [the candidate backed by the United States government] represents nothing other than the naked interests of imperialism and of the sectors of the national bourgeoisie closest to the Yankees; the same ones who defeated the Caracazo [a popular uprising in Caracas in 1989] with blood and fire, the same ones with their plans of servility to the IMF and World Bank, the same coup-plotters of April [2002], the bosses’ lockout [of 2003] and the sabotage of the oil industry. The masses of workers and poor people know this and it’s been a long time since they gave their support to these traitorous, starvation-causing, and repressive sectors! Therefore among the workers the discussion obviously turns on the program and the figure of [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez, who is said to lead a revolution and represent the interests of the exploited and poor people.

In earlier issues [of En Clave Obrera, the journal of the Venezuelan Trotskyists], we have explained in detail why, even when he confronts puntofijismo [the corrupt power-sharing agreement between Venezuela’s three old capitalist parties] at the national level, even when he has driven the clique of Adecas [politicians from the traditional capitalist Acción Democratica party] and Copeyanas [politicians from the traditional capitalist Political Electoral Independent Organization - Social Christian Party or COPEI] from power, even though he has been the target of coup attempts from the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, which he rebuffed with the massive and militant support of the people, Chávez and his government, far from proposing a revolutionary, and thus anti-imperialist and truly anti-capitalist, program, are heading a program of reforms which do not stray outside the bounds of "national development" in the midst of an alliance between the state and sectors of the national bourgeoisie. It is a limited bourgeois-nationalist program, which is not capable of completing the struggle for national liberation, and even less so, the struggle against capitalist exploitation.

All the parties, groups, and activists that call themselves leftists in this country back the call for Chávez’s reelection, including all the so-called Trotskyist groups that exist in this country. On this bandwagon we find everyone, from those who support Chávez unconditionally, who are an integral part of Chávez’s party and its leadership, such as the "parties of change", the Communist Party and the UPV [Venezuelan Popular Union], to those who support Chávez "critically," "tactically" in order to "defeat the right wing," or in order to "accompany the masses," as is the case with most of the so-called Trotskyist currents. So it would seem that, whether one is a through and through Chavista, or claims to be an "independent" revolutionary or "revolutionary Marxist," there’s nothing wrong with electorally supporting Chávez.

The main problem is that in any presidential election, what we are choosing are the political platforms for the nation of the various political formations, which represent distinct classes or factions of those classes. The vote for a particular presidential choice implies backing his political program and the class interests which it represents. With this perspective, even though it is not the program of imperialism and the sectors of the national bourgeoisie most closely allied to imperialism, Chávez’s program nevertheless does not represent the interests of the workers and poor people, but a nationalist course. According to Rosales and Co., Venezuela must open its doors for imperialism to exploit our resources and workforce without interference, including the oil, with the state acting only as a guardian of the bourgeois legality and stability, and in this way to prepare the country for every Yankee imperialist initiative. It is a plan for complete surrender, without questioning the super-profits that the imperialists take away from us, resigning itself to the crumbs left for the bosses who are gears in the machine of transnational capital and for the state bureaucrats who favor these businesses. It is the program of the years of the decadence of puntofijismo.

As for Chávez, he proposes a central role for the state in the management of the economy, keeping property and the control of the oil profits in its hands, also negotiating with transnational corporations, but placing these under state regulation; thus, the oil profits in the hands of the state and the taxes levied on foreign capitalists are used for "national" development and production, that is, production by state-owned and private enterprises, as well as for social programs, and the development of cooperatives and small businesses. It is a program that lays claim for the "country" to the oilfields and to a portion of the imperialists’ profits, with which it proposes to promote the growth of the national bourgeoisie (its alliance with Fedeindustria [a bosses’ federation] and the ranchers’ association Confagan is no accident). Its discourse on the level of international relations with Yankee imperialism is one of greater independence, which does not align itself with US politicians and seeks wider margins of action, along with alliances with other international or regional power centers such as China, Russia, and Iran, as well as reliance on the formation or regional blocs to negotiate better deals with imperialism [1] such as MERCOSUR, behind which stand the bourgeoisies of the other semi-colonial countries and the transnational corporations that operate within them. On the other hand Chávez is supported by a huge mass movement which hopes for solutions to its demands. All this is what earns Chávez the tenacious opposition of Yankee imperialism and the big national bourgeoisie.

But in Chávez’s program, and after eight years of his government we see: no expulsion of the transnational corporations nd expropriation of the imperialist capitalists which have robbed us for almost a century, no expropriation of the parasitic bankers and socialization of their riches, no expropriation of the exploitative national bourgeoisie and management of the economy under the control of the workers and poor people, neither any expropriation without compensation of the landlords and giving of their lands over to the poor peasants. Under Chávez’s program and his government the bosses and bankers (national and international) have continued about their lucrative business, living off the exploitation and the poverty of the working class. In the final analysis this is a picture of the normal operation of any capitalist economy. Certainly, the majority of the workers and poor people believe in Chávez and trust that their problems will be solved by his hand. The fact that no important sector of the workers upholds an independent working class program is in large part the fault of the leadership of the workers’ movement, particularly those who call themselves revolutionary Marxists, since they have refused to clearly explain what the real intentions of the government are, and to use the many struggles that the workers have been waging to show them that the reason why their major demands have not been met is the fault of the government. In this sense, it is the responsibility of the majority of the leadership of the PRS [Party of Revolution and Socialism, a new party based in the Venezuelan UNT union federation] which has not run a candidate of the workers themselves, of their own struggle against capitalism, when real possibilities existed to organize such a campaign. It is against this lack of a working class candidate that we call for voters to cast a blank ballot.

1. Bush and the Republicans’ recent electoral defeat increases the possibilities for this type of international politics.

JM said...

Hi fred,

this is a crazy position, in the middle of an attempt by the oligarchy and imperialism to overthrow Chavez and put and end to the revolutionary movement, when the choice is clear between revolution and counter-revolution, these people come out advocating a blank vote

so, for them they are basically saying there is no difference between Chavez and Rosales.... well, what planet do they live in???

even if their analysis of what is hapenning in Venezuela was right (and I do not think it is), still there is a choice between a reformist nationalist government and one that is a direct agent of imperialism and the oligarchy and would destroy the reforms that have been implemented, attack trade unions, privatise oil, etc

I sometimes wonder what planet people live in....

revolutionary bolivarian greetings

Espe (for the HOV international delegation) said...

Yes, yesterday was a very good day. It was great that we managed to get interviewed so we could express that HOV and other solidarity organisations are aware of the issue and are building support for Freddy Munoz. HOV-Uk has got lots of pictures... unfortunately we had a very poor internet conexion without possibility of downloading our cameras... Hopefully we will be able to do that soon and we will bombard you with all the stuff that we have been collecting and we will be able to post more often at the blog!

All the best!


Anonymous said...

Hi Fred, Are you so blinded by your narrow idealogical that you cannot see that Chavez is working to make Venezuela as a whole an international player, which is the only way to spread a socialistic form of government. We live in a real world and Chavez has to work within the the realities of life in order to succeed. He has made enormous advances, but back-stabbing by individuals trying to use his advances to promote personal ideas will do as much harm as the opposition can do.
For the sake of Venezuela think again.