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(en) DA #26 - Solidarity Federation magazine Hollow Victories: Venezuela(http://www.direct-action.org.uk/)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 20 Apr 2003 09:08:13 +0200 (CEST)


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A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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As recent DA coverage shows, Latin America is bearing
its 'fair' share of free market madness and modern
imperialism. The more international capitalism strives for
an ever tighter stranglehold over the global economy, the
more the Latin American working class sinks into poverty.
In DA24 we dealt with Plan Colombia, while DA25 covered
the devastated Argentine economy.
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil
producer, the regime of Hugo Chávez has recently
survived a two-month long general strike called by an
alliance of bosses, opposition politicians and CTV union
bureaucrats. Here, we look behind these events from the
point of view of the Venezuelan anarchist organisation Comisión
de Relaciones Anarquistas (CRA), which has close links with
the IWA. The CRA/El Libertario web site
(http://www.nodo50.org/ellibertario) reports on what is happening,
far from the hysteria of both sides. Unlike much in the alternative
media, including reports circulated on A-Infos and other
anarchist lists, CRA does not unquestioningly support
Chávez and his 'Bolivarian' movement. They rejected the
strike called by the bosses and the CTV, but they do not
support the Chávez regime, which they view as having
committed the same crimes and mistakes that it claims to
combat.

In Venezuela, upwards of two thirds of the population
languish below the poverty line, while wealth from oil
exports has lined the pockets of a corrupt elite throughout
the last half of the last century. Then, in 1999, elections
brought Chávez to power on the back of promises of wealth
redistribution. But the reality is that little has
changed. The much-vaunted Bolivarian 'Process', with
political and judicial change, with a new constitution and
new institutional structure supposedly leading to social and
economic change, has failed. Instead, it soon gave way to
the same old corruption, party-line sectarianism, blind
obedience to leaders, and demagogic treatment of the
masses. In socio-economic terms, little separates this
regime from previous administrations - only now it is a
different set of corrupt officials, for the most part Chávez'
military colleagues, who benefit from the oil wealth.
Contrary to claims of many on the left, this regime has not
strayed from the dictates of the US Empire, a fact
accepted by the IMF and World Bank, and demonstrated
by the concession of one of the main natural gas reserves
to a number of European and North American oil companies. In
fact, the opposition has complained of the pro-Chávez
approach of the last three American ambassadors.
This opposition to Chávez is a mixture of bosses'
organisations (Fedecamaras), a coalition of neoliberal,
social and christian democrat parties (Coordinadora
Democrática), and CTV union bureaucrats worried about
being replaced by government supporters. Among these
groups are to be found former Chávez followers (some
ideologically motivated, most wanting more spoils); the
bourgeoisie excluded from the select group of a few
civilians and many military officers who reap the oil profits,
and a wide array of petty-bourgeoisie frightened by
Chávez' pseudo-leftist discourse and the distorted picture
portrayed by the media.

This alliance of bosses, opposition politicians and union
bureaucrats, cut off by Chávez from the loot to be had from
the oil revenue, has resorted to a fuzzy, racist
rage against a brown skinned man who won't share with
them, and who brags of his popularity among all the other,
impoverished brown skinned folks. Their hysteria has
resulted only in a second wave of support for Chávez,
since many feel it's their duty to back anyone so hated by
those who have always despised the rabble. As the
opposition says, most people undoubtedly oppose the
current administration, but government supporters reply
(rightly) that even more people oppose going back to what went
before. In fact, some of the opposition only want to replace
Chávez with their own Messiah-in-a-uniform. Such a faction
carried out the failed coup of April last year.

However, the Army is happy to be the government's main
life support as well as the main beneficiary from corruption.
Mass mistrust and the well-founded suspicion that there
is little or no difference between the Chávez regime and its
opponents has been exposed electorally ever since
1998. The government's victories have never represented
more than 30% of the voters, while the opposition have
barely managed to exceed 20%. Moreover, the recent
demonstrations by both sides during the general strike
showed no evidence of any significant change in these
figures. Those such as the CRA who propose radical social
change are confronted with the enormous task of
mobilising this passive scepticism towards the creation of a
new choice built upon freedom, equality and solidarity.

Today's disillusionment stems from a rejection of would-be
representatives. The challenge is to spread the idea that
the community doesn't need representatives to make its own
decisions and to build new structures for self-management
and direct action.

At present, the anarchists are on the list of
counterrevolutionaries that Chávez supporters have been
circulating on the internet. Nevertheless, CRA continues to try
to forge links with various other groups who want to slowly
but steadily build an alternative to both sides.

Dissatisfaction with the regime is legitimate, but CRA urge
against allowing that anger to be used by others for their
own ends. They criticise the Chávez bureaucracy, but not
the grassroots membership of the chavist movement, and
argue for two values - autonomy and self-management.

After the coup last year, radical sections of 'Bolivarismo'
believed that the time had come to radicalise the
'revolution', but they were stopped from doing so by
orders from above. Most Chávez supporters want to see
real change, but appear to believe the line that it's not
possible because of the destabilisation promoted by the
'saboteurs behind the coup'. So they excuse the
government's errors and, worse, they try to silence any
criticism. The moderate sections of 'chavismo', the PPT, MAS
and MVR parties, occupy all of the ministries, and meantime the
grassroots sections continue to abandon their own
demands in favour of the 'defence of the revolution'.

However, many are already getting fed up with purely being
government cannon fodder. For instance, the Chávez
supporters at the university (Universidad Central de Venezuela),
at one time very active in organising many occupations, were
ordered to only carry out street actions defending Chávez.
It is the same in local communities and elsewhere. With the
grassroots, then, there is the possibility that when people
begin to recognise what the state bureaucracy means, then
anarchists can make some inroads. Already, there are
documents circulating that are beginning to question the
(Bolivarian) 'Process'.

Chavismo has never involved taking over the economy -
for instance, there have been no factory occupations. On
one hand, there's no union organisation that agitates
for this and, on the other, Chávez has declared the
'inviolability of private property'. The 'chavist' movement
contains those such as the 'Círculos Bolivarianos', who have
the best of intentions, and who carry out much grassroots
activity, but it also contains many more who see the
so-called 'revolution' as a nice little earner. As for the
trade unions, the CTV is a rotten organisation, but to
substitute it requires short-, medium- and long-term
strategies, to educate people about the vision of a different
unionism, to organise alternative unions, and to spread a
programme. But chavism only aims to overthrow the CTV
leadership - and when they tried this by organising union
elections, they lost.

With the likelihood of elections as a compromise way out
of the current political problems, it is possible that the most
radical sector of the chavist movement may go
their own way. But they might also be seduced again with
the call to 'defeat the coup with votes' and the promise to
start afresh. If elections were held tomorrow, Chávez
would very probably win again, firstly because the
opposition doesn't have a reliable leader; secondly, their
arguments do not connect with the people; thirdly, a notion
shared by many people is that 'I prefer Chávez to going
back to the past'.

CRA sees it as necessary to continue to build an
alternative to the present system. If the current situation
were truly a revolution - even if only a Marxist one -
there would be a need for a different anarchist approach,
one of criticism or confrontation, or even constructive
engagement. But what Venezuela has now is just more of the
same corrupt, elitist and arrogant system there has always
been.



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