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(en) Venezuela, Socialism to the Highest Bidder - Prepared by Nachie, for the Red & Anarchist Action Network (RAAN) VIII. (8/9)

Date Sat, 08 Jul 2006 08:03:24 +0300


20. LOS TUPAMAROS
One might have thought it impossible to adequately understand the
Venezuelan revolution without having first devoted some time
towards a serious study of the Revolutionary Tupamaro Movement,
(MRT) but that's just what the majority of left-wing and liberal
Chávez supporters have endeavored to do. The major reason for
this is that the Tupamaros, or "Tupas" as they are often referred to,
really don't fit into the nice prepackaged version of Bolivarianism
that is being sold to the international left.
As the reader will recall, the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez
Jiménez was overthrown by a general strike and mutiny on
January 23 in 1958, and in the process several modern housing
developments around Miraflores Palace were occupied and held by
poor and working class Venezuelans. By far the most famous of the
barrios that would develop in these areas came to be known as El 23
de Enero, and became internationally famous as a bastion of
revolutionary workers' power, an autonomous community that
would again and again rally to the support of Chávez, most notably
by providing the crowds that immediately surrounded the
presidential palace during the failed coup of 2002.

In many of the officialized accounts, El 23 is presented as a
conscious community existing in a vacuum, completely united
behind the government's Bolivarian project and, by sheer virtue of its
historic tradition, magically giving birth to revolutionary movements
on the president's doorstep. What these accounts totally fail to take
into account is that after the failed revolution of 1958, El 23 quickly
developed into a drug-ridden slum like any other in the country; a
violent place where even residents feared to go outside without the
protection of local narco-traffickers, and open-air arms markets sold
military grenades and C-4 like candy. The transition between this 23
de Enero and the one today, a radical, open, and safe community
which has been lauded by everyone from AdBusters to the
international Trotskyists as being at the "vanguard of the
revolution", would not have been possible without the MRT. And for
this reason, they are despised, ridiculed, or ignored by the
opportunist groups who have no such claim to credibility.

The Tupas are that rarest of rarities in the world - a successful urban
guerrilla group. They of course take their name from José Gabriel
Condorcanqui, also known as Túpac Amaru II, who in 1780 led a
surprisingly effective indigenous rebellion against Spanish forces in
modern day Peru. Since then, his name has been taken up by
guerrilla movements in Uruguay and Peru itself, all of which are
seen by the MRT as belonging to the same anti-imperialist tendency
as their own group. The Venezuelan Tupamaros came together
around 1984 from an ideologically-diverse base of ex-guerrillas who
shared the immediate aim of kicking the drug dealers out of El 23. In
a 2003 interview with RAAN, autonomist historian George
Katsiaficas described them as among "the best revolutionary
organizations in the Americas [all of which] developed outside - or in
opposition to the established left."

The clandestine MRT, wearing hoods to cover their faces, engaged
in an armed campaign against both the narco-traffickers and police
who supported them, eventually kicking both out the barrio and
establishing a security cordon within which they quickly set about
organizing the 300,000-strong community towards revolutionary
consciousness and self-defense (El 23's surrendered police station
was turned into a community center). This activity gave the
Tupamaros a kind of mystique and street credibility unmatched by
any other group in the country. In a conversation with the
non-politically active older brother of an anarchist activist in
Caracas, the Tupas were described in these terms: "They're not the
ones who talk about doing things, they're the ones who show up and
then it's already done ... during [the failed coup] in 2002, people
were really afraid because if anyone was going to come out and start
shooting, it was going to be them." And indeed, if you want an
introduction to the Tupamaros you need look no further than the
scenes in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised that depict
numerous middle-aged "Chavistas" with handguns trading shots
with the opposition snipers; you couldn't ask for a better profile of a
stereotypical MRT member.

In the years of the Caldera administration, the Tupamaros
underwent a slow change (some even say a split) into a
"civic-military" organization that now operates as an above ground
political party with the open secret of also being an armed faction - it
was only 2003 before MRT leaders decided that it was safe to show
their faces without masks. The relationship between the Tupamaros
and the Chávez government is extremely complex and an excellent
example of the conflicting forces at work within the Bolivarian
Revolution.

It is known that during the MBR 200 years, Chávez readily
supplied the MRT with military-grade weaponry. Whether or not this
exchange has continued during his presidency is anybody's guess,
but the Tupas remain a loyal enforcement base for Chavismo, and
were given control of security during the FSM (they boasted to me
that this year's saw fewer deaths than any other previous Forum).
During an International Women's Day march, they had armed
members (all of which were men, of course) covertly positioned
throughout the crowd to "protect the women" in case "anything
happened". The anarchists in CRA - who have a bit of bad blood
with the group since they disallow the distribution of El Libertario in
El 23 - see them as no better than a mafia for performing the
paramilitary functions of Chavismo. Interestingly, they claim that the
MRT organizes occupations of derelict buildings and then collects
rent from the squatters, thus finally giving the banks that own the
property a way to collect revenue from it. Nevertheless, among many
of the younger anarcho-punks and Venezuelans in general, they are
idolized as heroes of the struggle, and it is without a doubt that they
have mass community support.

I got in touch with the Tupamaros through a social worker who had
been working in El 23 for years and was able to put me in contact
with the heads of the movement. Although during the Fifth Republic
they have branched out to become a national organization, their base
still remains in Caracas, where I met Oswaldo Kanica and Jose
Pinto - the MRT's President and General Secretary, respectively.

While I did not find Pinto to be particularly engaging, Kanica and I
became fast friends after overcoming an initial mistrust. During my
first interview with him inside the group's tiny offices, he began to
ask me about RAAN before we had even had a chance to begin
discussing his own organization. I was caught off guard, but realized
that screening me was probably a necessity for a man in his position,
especially since I had been intending to ask him some difficult
questions. Luckily, before long we had bonded over a common and
deeply felt love for the revolution, and soon our interviews had
become nothing more than informal discussions at any number of
corner coffeeshops, where everyone always seemed to know him.
Kanica was impressed at the Red & Anarchist Action Network's
union between anti-state communists and anarchists, and was
particularly interested in our use of Parkour as a broadly-accessible
urban training regime for direct action squads. When I told him of
our fundamental rejection of Leninism, he cracked a smile and
leaned in to tell me a secret, almost as though we weren't the only
ones in the office - "Yeah, I know what you mean. For example we
have Maoists in this organization, and I have no idea where they
think a peasant army is supposed to come from in Venezuela, but
whatever."

Altogether I would rank the MRT as having the best interchange of
concrete grassroots action and strategic, principled, and practical
ideology. As communists we could of course properly object to their
decision to participate in the electoral charade, but it is worth noting
both that the current national political context has proved irresistible
to various radical leftist groups, and that many voices within the
organization are similarly opposed to parliamentarism. The social
worker who initially enabled me to get into contact with them was
adamant in saying that the MRT was actually profoundly
disillusioned with the political process, and from another source I
heard rumors that they were planning to destroy a massive
Coca-Cola advertisement in Plaza Venezuela with explosives, which
if true would put them firmly at the head of a vocal and growing
movement to have the Bolivarian Revolution break out of the legal
framework and advance towards the abolition of private property.

To be sure, their participation in the electoral process has always
been a "one foot in, one foot out" sort of thing. In 2003, they even
went as far as to call for the dissolution of the National Assembly,
where they have yet to win any representation. They are critical of
the country's electoral laws, which they say shut them out from a
much larger piece of the political cake - they claim, and not without
good reason, to be second only to the MVR in terms of grassroots
support in the capital. Through their participation in the past two
election cycles, they have only won 11 seats in local governments,
helping to make sure that they remain a largely invisible part of the
Bolivarian process. Their election posters call for a "Revolutionary
alliance of the people with Chávez" - an obvious reference to what
they correctly see as the inability of any revolution to be grafted onto
the preexisting bourgeois state. And yet, their experiences tell them
that now more than ever before, people's opinions about communist
ideas are changing, and they are willing to take all available steps to
get their message out. When I asked Kanica why the MRT had
joined politics, his response was simple, "In the 80's, I had to run
around with a bag over my head. Now, if I can take it off and actually
talk to people, why not?"

He described the Tupamaros to me as a Marxist-Leninist [sic]
organization before rethinking his terms a bit and adding on,
"...Guevarist". It is with groups such as the Tupas that it is important
to remember the separate ideological context provided by Latin
America and the legacy of Ché Guevara in particular. In addition,
the identification with Túpac Amaru and the idea of indigenous
resistance provides its own type of consciousness, as a result of
which many of the traditional definitions of Leninism are useless -
the Tupas are more interested in defending the historic validity of
indigenous resistance than that of the 1917 Bolshevik coup. In
addition, we have seen how Venezuelan class composition is entirely
different from the stereotyped fantasy of an industrial proletariat
generally seen as necessary to the functioning of an orthodox
vanguard Party. Within the MRT there is every shade of "Marxism"
from Trotsky to Mao and, undoubtedly, many young gangsters who
only joined up simply because it would mean they could have a gun.
The overarching Guevarist anti-imperialism gives them an
ideological basis with which to unite, and when they do so, they do
directly on the basis of practical community work, as has been the
case throughout their entire history.

The Tupamaros' current political strategy is based around four
"lines", which are designed as a "direct attack against misery":
These are the workers' councils, student's councils, community
organization in the barrio, and work with the campesinos. They are
big supporters of the new "Communal Councils" - prototype
organizations for a citizen's branch of government that have yet to be
fully implemented or tested (I'm not holding my breath). While
recognizing the very limited affect that a few Barrio Adentros can
have on the country's totally inadequate healthcare system, they
insist that the Misiones are nevertheless a cambio profundo because
they are able to reach Venezuelans directly in their own
neighborhoods for the first time. The new Bolivarian schools are also
seen as an incredibly important step forward, especially taking into
account the near-total shutdown of the schooling system in the last
days of the Fourth Republic. For the Tupamaros, the Misiones and
schools are not there to cure everything, but to build infrastructure
for the future deepening of the process. The Bolivarian schools, they
say, are through a variety of projects becoming integrated into the
communities, which are using them as resources for jobs and public
space. They are also excited about deals with China to launch a
satellite in 3 years, which they say will finally allow the revolution to
overcome the foreign mass media. ALBA is also seen as being of
singular importance, and they definitely showed an awareness of the
need to stop relying so much on food imports, and break with
unsustainable models of development.

The Tupas are intimately aware of the differences between the
current "state" of things, and a truly revolutionary post-capitalist
society. In fact this awareness is at the crux of their existence, as
they seek to find ways to organize effectively in the present while
always pressing the need for radical change in the near future.
Therefore, regardless of how we view their actual politics, they may
be the single best point of reference in the Venezuelan revolution.
"What we have now is Democracy and reformism, not proletarian
dictatorship," explained Kanica, "we know for a fact that the
Bolivarian Revolution has made millionaires of some people, and in
the future they will have to pay for this."

But for that future to ever become a reality, the Tupamaros have to
begin building a militant, revolutionary consciousness today; "The
revolution has steps, the work we're doing now is only preparatory.
It's a slow process to build consciousness, because we're still in a
transition to socialism." The MRT sees a fundamental difference
between the current representative democracy and the "participative"
one they - and Chávez - believe is slowly being built. A lot of their
work right now involves hosting film screening and public forums in
the barrios where people can openly discuss their visions for the
future and vent frustrations at a process that many say is taking too
long, and has become just as rigidly entrenched in bureaucracy as
any other government from the past. The Tupas, while perhaps not
always using the same language, are avid supporters of the
revolucion en la revolucion. "Chávez says 'march against
imperialism' and the people march, but there is no day-to-day work
being done to build a real anti-imperialist movement in this
country," explained Kanica. To try and remedy this, the MRT has
set up a national "Anti-Imperialist Front" bringing together many
different groups. They also, while highlighting the unprecedented
importance of the current government talking about and exposing
the political disappearances that took place under past regimes, are
working against ongoing state abuses that they recognize as
systemic through another "Front Against Impunity".

"There are many opportunists in this revolution - a lot of
chameleons" (he would use this word repeatedly) "The MVR, PPT,
and PODEMOS are Social-Democratic, they're not Marxist. They
want to participate in the system, to have a share of power, so they
quietly sit by and don't criticize the process. If we want to deepen the
revolution, if we want it to succeed, we have to denounce these
bureaucrats. That is the role of the Movimiento Revolucionario
Tupamaro within the political process - self criticism, and
denunciation."

As militants with decades of experience, many of whom have not
only fought as guerrillas against the state but also received military
training from the FAN, the MRT is in a better position than most
groups to judge the likelihood of a US or even UN invasion: "The
ordinary Venezuelan has military training, knows how to use a rifle,
what the different types of grenades are, and all that. Just look
around you," - we were standing outdoors in Caracas - "can you
imagine a foreign army trying to hold this city?" I admitted that I
could not. Caracas and other South American metropolises like it
would make Baghdad look like a walk in the park. "The thing is,
they don't need to invade us, anyway. We're already occupied by the
empire - through the transnationals."

Being Marxists, the MRT is well aware of economic relationships
behind the politics. They believe PDVSA to still be undergoing an
internal "class war", the result of which has not yet been decided. I
used my time with the organization's president to inquire about the
tripling of coal production in Zulia, which he admitted he had not
been aware of. Bringing up the Tupas' identification with indigenous
struggle, I told him of the campaign underway to save the Sierra del
Perijá. Confronted with the Bolivarian Government's complicity in
IIRSA, Oswaldo Kanica admitted, "This is an embarrassment to us
all." I passed him a copy of Nuestro Petróleo y Otros Cuentos,
which he had also never been exposed to. This small act may have
been the single most important accomplishment of my trip.

Overall, what I found inspiring in the Tupamaros was the same
thing that struck me with hope when talking to almost anyone in the
country - a profound disillusionment with the slow political process
and a solid commitment to revolutionary struggle, with or without
Chávez. During our interviews, Kanica often took me out for walks
through the city and to Plaza Bolívar, a public park that has
become a focal point for officialist and Chavista dialogue, and each
day hosts constant political debates between party activists and
everyday people. In the plaza, we usually couldn't walk more than a
few feet without somebody recognizing Oswaldo and telling me
some funny story about him; at least in that part of town, the man is
well respected. In the area we would usually bump into other
Tupamaros, many of who were quite old, with faded prison tattoos
on their forearms. Once, we encountered a group of people from
another state who had traveled to Caracas to demand medical
treatment for sick relatives. Kanica was very direct in telling them
that unless they got organized in their own communities to demand
the aid, they were unlikely to receive it. He explained to me that the
MRT often had to deal with individuals who were "just looking for
handouts" from the new welfare state, and rarely were these people
conscious of the need to reshape society beyond their immediate
demands.

Of all the people we met around Plaza Bolívar and the streets of
Western Caracas, by far the most interesting was a fellow
Tupamaro, probably in his thirties, who pulled me aside and
explained, "What we need to do is line up all those politicians in the
National Assembly and have them machine-gunned." Entirely in
agreement - but still wanting to play devil's advocate - I asked,
"What about [Gustavo] Cisneros?" By his reply I knew he hadn't
been joking around, "You need to forget about Cisneros, that guy
has already escaped; all those people are long gone, and they took
the money with them. The ones you need to pay attention to, the
people who are robbing us right now - are the same ones who are in
this 'revolutionary' government."

To fully understand the dramatic nature of his viewpoint, one has to
realize that in last year's elections, officialist parties took total control
of the National Assembly, meaning that this particular Tupamaro
was proposing the assassination of some of the country's most
"revolutionary" and committed Chavistas. Although at the time an
opposition boycott helped explain high abstention in those elections,
there was in fact a large degree of apathy and non-participation from
many in Chávez' mass base, partly in protest at what is seen as the
slow pace of reform, but also due to the widespread mistrust of the
politicians; most see Chávez as their only legitimate representative,
making any election in which he is not a candidate totally irrelevant.

Because our talk had turned to the electoral situation, I decided to
ask Kanica what he and the MRT thought of the widely publicized
campaign to secure 10 million votes for Chávez in the important
presidential elections this coming December. The propaganda of "10
Million for Chávez" and "Now we will be 10 million!" pervades
public politics and, for the opportunists, even functions as a
campaign platform unto itself. Where this slogan came from
originally nobody seemed to know, but Kanica brushed it off as mere
political propaganda: "They just say that to get people riled up and
excited about the elections. I mean, look at the referendum - we
were just under 6 million for Chávez then." I asked if this meant he
thought the goal of ten million was impossible? "Right, there's no
way we're going to get that, I think we could maybe do 8 million, if
we really get out in the streets and organize people to vote."

The rush to get such a large pro-Chávez turnout in December isn't
just about winning the election, as at this stage the opposition
doesn't really present a credible political challenge and Chávez
himself has suggested turning the poll into a mere referendum on his
rule so as to prevent the United States from accusing him of
"un-democratically" standing as the only candidate. The election is
seen much like 2004 referendum: as a symbolic contest between
Chávez and Bush. There is no technical need for the "10 Million",
but voting for Chávez has come to symbolize a dedication to the
revolutionary path and its advancement. The December election is
therefore popularly seen as a final commitment to the break with
capitalism, a symbol to the world that Venezuelans are behind the
Bolivarian project and in many ways the vote will also represent the
"point of no return" for Chávez. As Kanica explained, "It's not just
about Chávez winning again: we need those 10 million to justify
what we're going to do in the eyes of the world; to justify the
deepening of the process, because if that doesn't happen then we
haven't really done anything. On one side we have the Misiones, and
on the other we're still being robbed by los miesmos de siempre (the
same people as always)."

21. HANDS OFF VENEZUELA?

"The battle to re-elect the President is inseparable from the struggle
to resolve the grave problems that the workers and the vast majority
of the population continue to suffer, and from the need to build
socialism under the direct democratic participation of the workers ...
But, in our opinion, one of the main problems the UNT has suffered
during the last two years has been that it has failed to carry through
the policy of struggle agreed at its founding congress. It has ignored
basic issues such as the struggle for factory occupation and workers'
control of state industries ...the ultra-lefts want to split the UNT
away from the Bolivarian movement because they consider
President Chávez to be an obstacle in the way of the advance
towards socialism. They put the interests of their own sectarian
groups before those of the working class as a whole." - Statement
from the Trotskyist CMR

Before I explain my general conclusions about the Venezuelan
situation and propose some tactical objectives for RAAN and the
revolutionary movement in general, it would be useful to first discuss
the current state of international intervention and solidarity initiatives
with the Bolivarian Revolution.

Chávez has a good idea of the degree to which his government will
need a global solidarity campaign to survive. The state is sparing no
effort to make "the process" accessible to leftist tourism, and as a
result collaborates with a number of different groups from Global
Exchange to various Universities to book week-long tours of
government ministries, Misiones, and candid meetings with trade
union and community leaders. Of course, as a result these bought
"experiences" are often fundamentally charged with the
bureaucracy's one-sided and self-promoting propaganda.

Without a doubt, the biggest player on the international scene for
organizing around Venezuela is the Hands Off Venezuela (HOV)
campaign, a Trotskyist front group that has had success in using
UNT contacts to secure supportive union resolutions in England,
and has been putting groups together from Greece to the United
States. It's actually hard to say who is riding who - is the Bolivarian
Government using HOV as built-in activist base to organize
speaking tours and teach-ins about the revolution, or is HOV using
the Bolivarian Revolution as an energetic hot-button issue with
which to more effectively spread state-capitalist ideology? In fact it
seems that both sides are working together, as Chávez' vision for a
"Socialism of the XXI Century" is remarkably close to the plans of
certain international Trotskyist groups, which are being recruited by
the government to direct the indoctrination of Venezuela's
"revolutionary generation" along profoundly Leninist lines. We have
to remember that Chávez has already been in power for over six
years, meaning that many children have had a chance to come of
age during the Fifth Republic, and the comandante is almost
certainly counting on his Bolivarian Universities to provide a steady
supply of Red Guards for the defense of the government.

"Hands Off" was launched in December of 2002 on the heels of an
appeal to defend the "Bolivarian revolution" that was made by Alan
Woods, editor of the horrifically misnamed "In Defense of Marxism"
website and, along with veteran British Trot Ted Grant, ideological
leader of various affiliated movements such as the Workers'
International League (WIL) in the US and International "Marxist"
Tendency (IMT) in England and abroad. The campaign has since
served as a way for these authoritarian currents to buy legitimacy in
the movement by playing up their close relationship with the
Bolivarian Government: Woods has met with Chávez, who
personally thanked HOV for their efforts. In May they both spoke at
a large HOV (and Cuba!) rally in Vienna, which was probably only
the first of many such mutually beneficial engagements.

The editorial style of "In Defense of Marxism" is depressingly
formulaic, unimaginative, and repetitive. The leaders of the IMT
write pages and pages about developing revolutions in all regions of
the world while contentedly sitting on their thumbs in their own
country, hoping that one day the Labour Party will be "reclaimed".
In fact as with all Leninists, the idea of the (official) "Workers'
Party" figures prominently into their ideology and no matter what
they're talking about, the conclusion is invariably that there is a need
for a Trotskyist vanguard party to lead the revolution. Nepal: "The
only thing missing was an organization to lead them to victory. The
next vital task facing the workers and youth of Nepal is to develop
that organization that will lead the movement to victory"; Turkey:
"there is no easy way to counter this other than boosting the efforts
to build the revolutionary vanguard"; the Netherlands: "Therefore,
become active, organize yourself on the basis of a Marxist
programme and join the International Marxist Tendency!" etc. etc.

Their writing style on the Bolivarian Revolution is similarly boring,
and often sounds like a broken record repeating the same trademark
Alan Woods catchphrases regarding the "correct position" for their
militants to take on the Venezuelan process. Taken as a whole and
studied carefully, the IMT (and its Venezuelan affiliate, the CMR)
actually does seem to have a decent grasp of the current situation in
the country, but their analysis is plagued with by worship of Chávez
and the MVR and - like all authoritarians - they cannot conceive of a
revolution without them. The major problems with HOV are
twofold: The first is that they rely exclusively on the Bolivarian
Government for their information and propaganda, with the benefit
being that they are then instantly able to distribute full-color
magazines, t-shirts, DVDs, and other literature in support of
Chávez. In return, they are given funding and access to a number
of Venezuelan social movements. Inside the country, this Trotskyist
propaganda campaign is no worse than anything the government
would be doing anyway. Internationally however, it creates a mass
front organization for the spreading of Leninist ideology. The major
consequence of towing the Bolivarian line is that you create an
uncritical movement that is just as quick to call its critics "golpistas"
as Chávez himself. Unsurprisingly, HOV simply will not touch
issues such as IIRSA and Venezuela's opening itself up to
unprecedented energy exploitation by the multinationals. In a
process that bears comparison to the monopolization of the
Communist International after the Bolshevik coup, they are seeking
to herd international discourse on Venezuela behind the officialist
version of events.

Ultimately, what results is an incredibly un-nuanced and electoralist
ideology that does not take into account the true extent of the
contradictions driving the process forward - contradictions that
inevitably must lead either to the death of the revolution, or that of
representative politics. This globalization of the simplistic Chavista
mentality is necessary for the building of that "disciplined"
movement which the IMT sees itself in leadership of; a politics and
strategy that cannot hold up to any thorough analysis. Remember -
these are the same fuckers who seriously want us to believe that
Lenin and Trotsky were anything other than dictators! Their
thinking is also profoundly opportunistic and designed only to get
themselves into power, even if a few inconvenient ideological
concessions have to be made first - in the recent past a longstanding
page on the Frequently Asked Questions section of their "Youth For
International Socialism" website, which identified Cuba as a Stalinist
regime and greatly downplayed the historic significance of Che
Guevara as a revolutionary leader, was deleted. This comes as they
are now of course publishing Cuban editions of their books through
Venezuelan contacts, and are only too happy when the Castro
bureaucracy invites them to become part of its cheering section.

HOV is already being run in exactly the same way as its directors
run their vanguardist cadre organizations: with an emphasis on
recruitment and the selling of official merchandise and literature.
Nothing looks more pathetic than when your "action report" from an
event is that you sold "33% more Trotsky books" than last year. Woo
Hoo.

But do not underestimate their ability to use the attractive lure of the
Bolivarian Revolution: HOV regularly draws hundreds of people to
its events all over the world, and any independent anarchist projects
related to the Venezuela issue will undoubtedly have to deal with
them in some way.

22. CONCLUSIONS

"He who serves the revolution ploughs the sea." - Simón Bolívar

These words, spoken by Bolívar in his final days as he became
increasingly cynical, in some way describe perfectly certain
moments during my trip in which the Venezuelan revolution seemed
hopelessly bureaucratic, superficial, and profoundly capitalist. What
had been my intense idealism regarding Chávez - best expressed in
the Bolivanarchism essay - was quick to fade away in the face of my
physical experiences in the country. On the other hand, my
extensive contact with those for whom the revolution is a daily
project of self-valorization and the construction of alternative and
non-hierarchal associations outside of both the State and capitalism
left me with a lot of hope regarding not just the prospects for the
advancement of true communism, but also the incredible
opportunity that we as internationals have to preserve in this exact
moment, as it develops, the truth about Venezuela before it can be
erased by Leninist distortions. Above all we must delve deep into the
complexity of the process, and in particular its internal
contradictions not only so as not to be blinded by simplistic formulas
that reduce the revolution to the actions of this or that politician, but
as an overall strategy with which to strengthen critical thinking
within our own ranks and increase comprehension of what a
revolution is and how the various elements involved interact with
each other.

In the wonderful short essay "Revolt and Misrepresentation", which
appeared in the first issue of the insurrectionary journal A Murder of
Crows, author Kellen Kass takes a look at anarchist analyses of
recent global events and offers five important points to keep in mind
when looking for the truth in any potentially revolutionary situation.
These five points are in fact so dead-on in terms of evaluating the
challenges we face in regards to Venezuela that I thought it would be
useful to fully reproduce them here:

1. For anarchists, analysis should never be undertaken in order to
spread an ideology or try and prove the correctness of one's ideas so
as to gain adherents. Many leftist rackets use uncritical cheerleading
as means of recruiting members for their organizations or in order to
sell more newspapers.

2. Insurrections are not pure events, and often they have
contradictory tendencies within them. Therefore it is important to
highlight those elements that we find encouraging, but not
over-emphasize them. We gain nothing through misrepresentation
and wishful thinking. Those aspects that we find deplorable should
obviously never be hidden, nor should they be deemphasized.

3. Homogenizing events and activities, or trying to fit them within
a particular political framework can lead to ignoring evidence,
falsification, and useless conclusions. The reality of situations can be
disheartening, but seeing revolution everywhere does not change the
actual content of movements and events.

4. It is impossible to know about the particularities of every
situation, but intellectual laziness is also a danger. Simply finding the
information that supports the story one wants to tell is the hallmark
of mass media. Therefore it is important to be honest about how
much information one has and recognize the obstacles that a lack of
information presents.

5. We can easily sharpen analyses through a variety of means. It
would greatly benefit revolutionaries to learn other languages in
order to have access to a wider array of information. Of even greater
importance is the necessity of establishing international contacts
with whom we can share information, analysis and critique.
Comrades on the ground can help give us a more nuanced
understanding of insurrectionary events, rather than us painting
them with a broad brush due to a lack of information.

Above all we must continue to encourage and provide space for
ongoing independent anarchist analysis of the Venezuelan situation
from both inside and outside of the country. Of course, the bourgeois
media cannot be trusted as a source of information on these matters,
but even greater must be our distrust of dogmatic Leninists to whom
all revolutionary acts eventually boil down to the task of constructing
a vanguard party intrinsically foreign to the process of proletarian
self-valorization. What we risk is collapsing into the same mentality
that seeks to explain the rise of Stalin as if he fell from the moon,
completely independent of the Bolshevik structures that nurtured
that despotism. Venezuela is a key issue for the anarchist analysis
specifically because of the government's immense involvement. At
this stage the state, what structures it replicates, who is controlling
it, and how it does business are at the center not only of any
anarchist critique, but the very process itself.

Chávez inherited a capitalist state just like any other, and
"Bolivarian" Constitution or no Bolivarian Constitution, it has
remained completely unchanged. He has inherited a bourgeois
military machine and rather than even attempt to restructure it, has
consolidated it from every angle. There has been absolutely no real
judicial reform in the Fifth Republic, and as long as Chávez himself
refuses to address this issue the rest of the government, for whom
politics is merely a balancing act in which you do your best to appear
in complete agreement with anything the president says, will
continue to do nothing. In fact the Bolivarian Revolution has given
the state a "softer, friendlier" image, which has encouraged an
unprecedented rise in urban crime by those who expect to be able to
get away with more. This has in turn been used by the government
as a justification for the strengthening of the pre-existing repressive
apparatus, which in April culminated in the chief of Caracas' police
being replaced with a FAN brigadier general.

For all the talk of "tribunals against impunity" to investigate state
repression, these bodies have been completely stacked with
members of the National Guard and political armed forces. On
January 30th in Barquisimeto, a committee of the victims and
families of police abuse released a communiqué condemning the
tribunals; "these people guarantee the social peace, generate justice,
and therefore the state cannot dismantle its own gang, it will never
judge, much less condemn, itself." The continuation of police abuse
is one of the most underplayed aspects of the Bolivarian
Government, especially considering the lack of responses to it. In
March, 21 year old Iván Padilla Alliot was severely beaten by the
DISP and told that he was going to be "disappeared" after he ran in
front of a government convoy while crossing through Caracas' hectic
traffic. Only when it was discovered that he was the son of the Vice
Minister of Culture was he released. If such a "mistake" is possible,
one can only guess as to what happens when the pigs grab someone
who's father is not a politician.

While Chávez speaks almost endlessly about his plans to benignly
integrate the armed forces into society, in practice it is Venezuelan
society that is forced to take on the nature of the armed forces.
Although Article 61 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of
conscience, Articles 130 and 134 then declare it obligatory to
"defend the patria". Among the largest changes we now see the
country undergoing is the implementation of obligatory
"pre-military" programs in all schools, which seek to indoctrinate the
youth with a bizarre blend of nationalism and "socialism" (sound
familiar?). These programs will of course be complimented by a wide
variety of centrally planned - and approved - education initiatives,
especially through the new Bolivarian University. This institution,
which Chávez claims now hosts more students than all the
independent ones put together, is rigorously controlled by the state
so that all activism, cultural activities, and studies undertaken by the
students fit into the prefabricated mold of Bolivarian Socialism (Alan
Woods, for example, being a typical guest speaker). As a result one
can expect to see significant deterioration in the quality and
autonomy of student struggle, which had previously characterized
the universities as traditional points of resistance throughout all of
the past regimes. Meanwhile, like so many other
vertically-implemented projects of the state, the Bolivarian
University has been failing to live up to it's promise: the professor's
union has publicly said that student desertion is at over 40%, and
attendance statistics have been manipulated by the government. The
curriculum has also had to be completely redesigned three times in
the past four years.

The Bolivarian Revolution and Chávez as a personality are
increasingly intolerant of criticism, and even more so of projects that
fall outside of their control. The much-lauded and incredibly tiny
urban garden projects in Caracas, which were deliberately dressed up
with things like premium fertilizer to look more impressive in the
run-up to the FSM, actually predate the government but have been
turned into clients of the state with the promise of funding. This has
happened to untold numbers of community projects and
autonomous organizations, with those who refuse to collaborate
inevitably being called golpistas. As Humberto Decarli explained to
me, Chávez' interest in Cuba is not so much an ideological
common ground as it is an admiration for the raw efficiency of the
repressive mechanisms that have allowed Castro to remain in power
for so long, and a key part of this is the absorption or dismantling of
all institutions and movements outside of the state.

At this stage however, there remain dynamic relationships between
all players - the people and the state, Chávez and the people, and
Chávez with his own bureaucracy. Other than the MRT, one of the
better examples of this is the Frente Nacional Campesino Eziquiel
Zamora (FNCEZ). Because of the high urban population
concentration and "impending" US invasion, Chávez has been able
to successfully dodge the issue of land ownership and redistribution,
which is truly an "either/or" matter that can quickly expose the
reactionary nature of most leftist governments, as we saw with Lula.
But while Brazil has the powerful Movement of Rural Workers
Without Land (MST), Venezuela's small FNCEZ actually functions
as a support for Chavismo while at the same time bringing a
powerful critique from the inside. Their positions revolve around the
(to me, contradictory) ideas that Chávez is the supreme leader of
the revolution, and reformism is as dangerous as imperialism. Like
the Tupamaros, they warn of a break between the comandante's
rhetoric and the state's implementation, going so far as to "alert the
president" that Colombian paramilitaries are entering the Apure and
Táchira regions with the help of so-called Chavistas in the
government. They oppose the officialist parties but are solidly behind
the campaign for 10 Million votes. Most tellingly, they also
regurgitate the calls to "defend strategic industries" and during an
indigenous anti-coal march at the FSM, used physical blocking
tactics to prevent the distribution of FSA literature and drown out the
organizers' slogans with their own.

Clearly, we are dealing with an incredibly complex situation that
cannot be reduced simply to either Chavismo or anti-Chavismo. In
fact, at this point the "opposition" in the country has absolutely no
political prospect other than total chaos and the destabilizing of the
state so as to trigger foreign (United Nations) intervention. As a
result, Venezuela is important simply because widespread violence
has yet to break out. Chávez has to "take it slow" on many
questions - including land redistribution - simply to hold on to
power. The balance of class forces is not yet entirely favorable to the
revolution on the street, and certainly not within the government.
The most dedicated revolutionaries in the country, both those
working within radical organizations and organizing alternative
institutions simply for the sake of their family's survival, face a long
and difficult task in raising the consciousness of the Venezuelan
masses and constructing resources for the survival of the revolution.
Most worryingly, they will have to accomplish this before the new
bureaucracy has totally consolidated itself and completely
institutionalized (or in other words, smothered) the revolutionary
process. In particular we can take a closer look at the formation and
training of the Citizen's Reserve branch of the FAN. The arming and
training of the people is a fundamental necessity of the revolution,
and yet we find ourselves rightly suspicious of any formations that
are born out of and subordinate to the existing state machine,
Chávez included. It is possible that the ultimate role of the Citizen's
Reserves may be to serve as repressive Committees For the Defense
of the Revolution. During my stay in Valencia, one of the most
common views expressed was that a Venezuelan civil war between
the people and the bureaucrats is at this point inevitable. In addition,
not only is such a confrontation seen as inevitable, but also entirely
beneficial. In the words of Alix's son, "Only civil war can bring this
to its conclusion. People are too much like sheep, they don't
understand what's happening. A war would finally wake people up,
force them to take sides very quickly and recognize who are their real
enemies."

Whenever talking about these types of situations, one should also
keep in mind that things are bound to change from week to week
and even overnight; the whole point of any revolution are the
dramatic changes and ruptures they entail. One interesting example
is that while this text was being written, Chávez doubled taxes on
foreign oil companies in the country. Companies working in the
Orinoco Delta (including Chevron) were already being taxed heavily
and suffered only a smaller increase. Interestingly however,
Chevron-Texaco just posted a $4 Billion 1st quarter profit,
prompting accusations of price gouging in the wake of rising fuel
prices in the US. Their response? Profit is generated by their oil and
gas exploration and production divisions, not petrol retailing.

We should also take great care to remember when analyzing the
Venezuelan situation and others like it that things are not always as
they seem. For instance we can observe how the introduction of
modern healthcare into Brazilian slums has served to underplay the
affects of chronic malnutrition in favor of prescribed remedies that
lock in reliance and mystification of the pharmaceutical industry. We
also know that "unorthodox" capitalist economists have for years
been suggesting the granting of individual land property rights to
communities such as El 23 in a bid to make it easier for such people
to enter the market by being able to mortgage their homes, which up
to that point would have been largely-uncontested squats. In this
way must we carefully pick apart the "victories" of the Bolivarian
Revolution and give our support only to those groups and initiatives
that do no seek to recreate or enlarge the capitalist economy.
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