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

Date Sun, 09 Jul 2006 08:27:51 +0300


23. RAAN INTERVENTIONS AND BROADER PROPOSALS
Being our first international effort, this trip was a notable milestone
for the Red & Anarchist Action Network and created many
important opportunities for future projects in Venezuela. Both the
Association of Artisans in Valencia and the Tupamaros in Caracas
have offered to provide housing and assistance to any future RAAN
groups studying the revolution. Although there are currently no
plans for another such trip, that the foundations for this type of
solidarity have been laid is an incredibly inspirational development.
However we will leave such planning to those willing to undertake it,
and for the remainder of this text I would just like to focus on the
practical moves already being made by our tendency to follow up on
what has been accomplished.

After spending a week at the FSM promoting RAAN's ideas and
distributing a very limited amount of network literature and zines
from our Autonomous Publication Initiative, the majority of the
network's ground-level organizing took place in Valencia. Thanks to
the relationship we were able to build with the Association of
Artisans, ample time was spent discussing RAANista perspectives
with community members and activists, many of whom were being
exposed to "anarchist" ideas for the first time. The majority of the
work I did in the city was focused around Parkour workshops both
for the benefit of Association members and local youth. Parkour, or
the application of military obstacle-coursing techniques to urban
environments as developed in France during the 1980's, has been
one of the major contributions of the RAAN tendency to the
revolutionary movement, and in my opinion represents the only
feasible prospect for a widely-applicable and effective mental and
physical training regimen in horizontal networks such as our own. In
Valencia I was able to run nearly a full month of PK workshops,
often tailoring them to the area's mountainous surroundings. The
Parkour tactic was enthusiastically taken up by members of the
Association and their allies, and since my departure a wonderful
network for the continuation of this type of training has sprung up in
the area. To the people of Venezuela, a broadly-accessible form of
combat training is seen as a practical and imminent necessity for the
defense of the revolution.

Towards the end of my stay in Valencia, Alix Santana and a handful
of other comrades who had been involved in our dialogues expressed
interest in forming a new RAAN-affiliated presence in Venezuela.
This was a remarkable development for our group, and as an
autonomous "ambassador" of the network with no mandate other
than my own self-initiative, I took it very seriously and sought to
approach this prospect with a good deal of discretion. A number of
discussions regarding the nature of the RAAN project were held
between myself and several of those interested; for my part I focused
primarily on answering general questions about the network's
ideology and methods, and the need for all regional RAAN initiatives
to be capable of acting autonomously. We spent a lot of time
focusing on the particular obstacles faced in creating the first
network presence in Latin America, such as the fact that up until
that point we had been almost entirely an English-speaking project.
Another issue that was discussed at length was the tendency among
North American radicals to tokenize their comrades in the South,
and how could we develop strategies to ensure that any RAAN
groups in Venezuela would not be cynically used as poster children
by the American chapters. At the same time, we kept up an
awareness of the concept of collective credibility throughout the
network, and what the inevitable as well as positive effects of
RAAN's first international project would be for preexisting affiliates.
This series of discussions has actually provided the blueprint for a
specific organizing technique focused around collective discussion
and regional autonomy, which has since been used quite effectively
to stimulate new dialogues on RAANismo throughout North
America.

At the end of what was about a week's worth of informal
discussions, a new and fully independent RAAN chapter without any
given "organizational" format was launched in Valencia on the first
of March. The group has since focused primarily on the promotion
of Parkour in the city, with great success.

In Caracas, collaborations between RAAN and the CA3 collective
produced a PK workshop on March 11th that was described in the
CA3 flyer as the "Art of obstacle-coursing / Military techniques
applied to the urban environment / Direct Action training / Organize
with action and not just ideology / Training for emotional health and
confidence in your body and mind". Again, the application of
Parkour in our movement and RAAN's overall tactical objectives
were met with a great deal of enthusiasm, which led to a second
training session two days later.

We can now of course also say that relations have been established
between RAAN and the CRA, and it is our mutual wish to carry out
joint projects in the future. About 300 copies of El Libertario were
donated to RAAN by the collective, and taken back to the United
States. The issue in question (#46) had just come off the presses and
was really put together quite well. Under the headline "Recuperating
the Autonomy of Social Movements", this issue had a great feature
on the FSA, updates from the anti-coal campaign in Maracaibo, an
analysis of the Bolivian social movements, a hilarious graphic
representing "Comandante Ché-vron", and a back page
contrasting the differences between the new talking Hugo Chávez
action figure and the one of Carlos Andrés Pérez from back in
the days of old school populism. Pérez: Carries babies and kisses
grannies; Chávez: Kisses babies and carries grannies. Pérez
Figure: Hecho en Venezuela; Chávez Figure: Made in China.

These incredible Spanish-language newspapers have since been
distributed at immigrant rallies, every speaking engagement on
Venezuela we have organized, and several Infoshops throughout the
United States.

I beseech those acting within the RAAN tendency to put any
possible effort into strengthening our ties with the Venezuelan
anarchists. The monetary exchange rate is so favorable in Venezuela
that the monthly water bill for the CESL comes to something like
fifty US cents. We will also be deepening our relationship with the
CNA for the sake of channeling funds directly into more street- and
prisoner-oriented activity. Discussion have already begun over
potentially recasting a planned benefit concert for the EZLN as a
Venezuela fundraiser, though the final decision is yet to be made by
those organizing the event.

We can also cement more ties to the Venezuelan movement
throughout our wider networks. Anyone who is able to receive mail
at a University address can have about 30 copies of El Libertario sent
up for free once a month as "educational materials". It is my hope
that one or two distros in the US will be able to pick up on that and
make this amazing publication more widely available.

The big project that RAAN as a network has been moving forward
on is the distribution of Nuestro Petróleo y Otros Cuentos in North
America. Through a direct contact with distributor Yeast Films, we
have been able to make free copies of the DVD available to several
RAAN cells throughout the United States, as well as various
contacts throughout our extended network. RAANistas have
organized a series of at least ten screenings throughout the country,
including one in Philadelphia on the 14th of April that is believed to
have been among the first showings in North America. Another on
May 26th in Oakland attracted the attention of famed
anarcho-institution AK Press, who we hope will now be able to take
on and expand the majority of the film's distribution. Several copies
have also been handed to key anti-coal activists in the US, as will be
discussed below. Overall, we seem to have accomplished much on
this front, making it perhaps the best example to date of a collective
effort within the tendency.

It must be stressed that Nuestro Petróleo y Otros Cuentos is only a
very small piece of the puzzle. The film itself takes no clear
anti-capitalist stances and for the most part explores the issues
raised only from a detached standpoint of social advocacy and
reformist environmentalism. Moreover, there is no in-depth
exploration of Bolivarian politics or the question of "socialism".
Many critics will likely also point out that it spends almost no time
dealing with orthodox class struggles. For this reason we have
repeatedly explained that to merely show the film is not enough - it
needs to be backed up with a moderated discussion on the current
situation in Venezuela, and can then serve as a generative theme
with which to debunk Bolivarian Socialism and seek out a broader
anti-capitalist critique.

One of the next major steps being taken is the coordination of a US
speaking tour for comrades of the CRA. Initiated by groups in
Connecticut, this planned East-coast tour will likely be hosted by
RAAN chapters in any of the relevant cities. However, at this stage
there is still an immense amount of fundraising to be done for this
project and it seems likely that it could get put off for another year.
Regardless, this is an initiative we can move on when the time is
right.

24. IN THE NORTH AMERICAN MOVEMENT

Despite our immediate successes in getting the word out about
Nuestro Petróleo and the kind of ideas being expressed in El
Libertario, we in the North still face an uphill battle in terms of
ensuring that these analyses cannot be simply "swept under the rug"
by the mainstream Left in its support of Chávez. Already we have
encountered a fair deal of criticism from many sectors for daring to
suggest that the situation might be more complex than the Chavistas
portray, and in the process we have been called primitivists, racists,
and even "anti-Marxist" for opposing Venezuela's development
along the dictates of the capitalist market. Other critics, closer to the
IMT line on Venezuela, have accused us of "complaining from the
sidelines" in an effort to downplay our inconvenient analysis,
obviously without any knowledge as to the actual work that we have
already done on this issue.

What is condescending to the Venezuelan struggle is in fact not the
"ultra left" analysis, but rather the Chavista model in which all
participants and reality itself are treated as objects of the
bureaucracy. Again and again we must point out that the most
important task at this stage is to fight against the oversimplification
of the revolution into a "you're either with Chávez or against
him"-type paradigm. Chávez is hardly the most important factor in
the process, but its centralization around him is the key goal of those
who wish to build hierarchal movements across the world. To North
American radicals, Chávez appears as a type of "Fair Trade" coffee
- a worker-friendly alternative that allows the privileged to sleep
better without actually having to confront their own consumption
patterns. It is in fact, then, a very perceptible manifestation of class
and even white guilt when Northern radicals refuse at all costs to
allow for any criticism of Chávez. Much of the apologism we see
coming out of the North is based in white activists' inability to
criticize the government out of fear for being labeled "imperialist"
(often, by other white activists).

We therefore have to be extremely cautious when organizing around
this issue, constantly pressing for a sober and detailed analysis of a
complex situation to counter the oversimplifications of the
Chavistas, who will waste no time in comparing us to the CIA.
There is a need for such attentiveness precisely because in both the
US and Venezuela, we are seeking to disseminate these ideas and
organize around horizontal dual power from more or less within a
movement led by Chavistas. For instance, it would make no sense
for a movement with our limited resources to try and counter
something like Hands Off Venezuela at the campaign level. Rather, I
would propose that we work from within it wherever possible,
putting the Trotskyists who head it up in awkward positions through
debates on energy policy (which they usually refuse to take part in)
while at the same time using its large organizational base as a pool
from which to further dialogue with those who have already shown a
degree of interest in the issue.

In order for us to have an impact, we must be clear in our analysis
and not play into the hands of the reductionists. The anti-coal
movement in Zulia serves as a perfect example, as the organizers of
that campaign have been pushing for it to take on more of an
anti-IIRSA, rather than simply an anti-carbón or
"environmentalist", aspect. The question of IIRSA allows for a very
direct connection to be made between a critique of Venezuelan
energy policy and the commercial relationships of global capital and
neoliberalism. It will be up to us in the near future to tailor our
initiatives towards such broader questions. The relative obscurity of
Our Oil and Other Tales makes it easy to coordinate screenings in
concert with pre-organized Venezuelan solidarity activists, most of
whom will not realize that it isn't just another pro-Chávez
propaganda flick until after they've already been exposed to its
message.

We also need to make sure that these issues are well recognized in
our own movement, and in particular we must try to cut down on the
number of anarchists who can only offer critical support of Chávez
for lack of having access to any developed anti-state analysis. There
is such a culture of excitement and hunger for information regarding
the Bolivarian Revolution that it should in fact be quite simple - in
the United States, at least - to see these ideas receive a wide
circulation (if not acceptance). In Venezuela itself, the Zulia activists
caught an interesting break when a personal connection allowed
them to sneak a massive anti-carbón poster onstage during one of
the huge Manu Chao concerts held in Caracas several weeks after
the FSM. Manu Chao is, of course, vocal in his support of Chávez.
But he is also, like most intelligent people, against destructive
mining practices and a supporter of indigenous movements. Making
these types of connections, where a deeper analysis can be forcibly
merged with mass interest on the issue, is the key to our success.
We don't have to go out and "prove" that Chávez is a
counterrevolutionary - as I explained earlier, focusing our efforts
merely around his one persona is in fact a total waste of time. All we
really have to do is get him and HOV to talk about it and respond to
the critiques against IIRSA. Venezuela's economic model and
energy policy must be analyzed openly, most of all by those who
claim to move in solidarity with the struggle towards communism.

In the United States, the best place in which to utilize the "Manu
Chao tactic" would be via the radio and television show Democracy
Now!, which regularly does features on Chávez and South
American movements in general, but seems unwilling, like so many
other forums, to take their coverage beyond the standard "Chávez
started a new social program; the US is about to invade" weekly
updates. We demand a more nuanced look at the implications of
Bolivarian Socialism, and the beauty of the thing is that only a truly
thorough, anti-statist, anti-capitalist, class analysis is capable of
providing it.

When presenting his ideas to Northern audiences, Chávez tends to
use words such as "unsustainable consumerism" to appeal to
environmental interests and explain why the US is after Venezuela's
oil. In this manner his own comments have actually provided us with
an easy way to demand an analysis of the reality of economic
integration schemes and how they represent the expansion of
capital. If we can get those concepts into the forefront of our
understanding of Venezuela, we stand a good chance at being able to
nurture a critical, horizontalist, and complex revolutionary
movement as opposed to the vertical and unquestioningly-servile
one being imposed through the oversimplifications, orthodox
"Marxist" economic determinism, and leader-worship promoted by
modern-day Bolsheviks.

We have already had a degree of success in pushing forward our
analysis - one of the major victories of the FSA was that it led
directly to the environmental group Global Response taking up
Venezuelan coal as its primary issue. Nevertheless, GR's approach
falls woefully short of what is needed by the movement on the
ground due to the fact that have they failed to even mention IIRSA,
thus casting the entire issue as a self-contained environmentalist
anti-coal struggle with no real implications as regards the rhetoric of
the "revolutionary" government, or capitalism as a worldwide
system. A specifically anti-capitalist critique of Venezuela's energy
industry and Bolivarian bureaucracy is exactly what the movement
on the ground needs and is calling for, and meanwhile in the US it
offers us an easy route by which to radicalize existing
social/environmental movements who are sympathetic to the
anti-coal cause by insisting that their critique also take the country's
ongoing revolution into account, therefore superceding the reformist
issue of ecological "conservation", and tackling the economic model
itself.

Now before going any further, I have found it necessary to clarify
that RAAN does not view the anti-carbón campaign in Zulia as
being the primary focus of revolutionary struggle in Venezuela as a
whole. Those who are assuming that this is our position should go
back and reread the above text, only a fraction of which actually
deals with the coal issue. The reason it is being given such
prominence here in our proposals is simply that in the American
context, given the current anti-state/deep ecology movement with its
very limited resources, the indigenous struggle against coal in
Venezuela is without a doubt the most strategically-coherent point of
intervention for us. It has been chosen for a variety of reasons, not
only for its ability to galvanize the skeptical into taking a closer look
at Chavismo or the coverage it received in Nuestro Petróleo, but
chiefly because in this moment there is a serious and truly global
battle being waged over coal consumption, and thus it is a very
relevant issue that activists in the United States can plug directly
into.

In late May of this year I spoke on a panel dealing with international
resistance to coal mining and capitalist infrastructure projects at the
Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) training camp in West Virginia.
MJS is a multi-state campaign of various community and
environmental action groups opposed to mountaintop removal coal
mining in the Appalachian Mountains. It is important to note that
MJS is a strictly non-violent campaign and is also opposed to
property destruction, though it does engage in direct action against
coal companies alongside various forms of litigation and other
techniques. For this reason, it is worth making exceptionally clear
that there exists no alliance, implied or otherwise, between MJS and
RAAN, the latter of which has never defined itself as "non-violent"
and has no intentions or structure with which to do so in the future
(this of course does not preclude RAAN affiliates from identifying as
"non-violent" or engaging in purely non-violent activities as they see
fit). As long as these differences are always kept at the forefront for
the sake of respecting MJS' strategic goals and the autonomy of
those groups and individuals working within it, I believe it to be
important for us to build contacts with participants in MJS for the
sake of the Venezuela campaign, as those fighting King Coal in the
US are both the ones with the greatest need for solidarity, and the
most immediate potential to provide it. On a personal note, I believe
MJS to be among the most crucial campaigns in the United States
today, and their emphasis on training for direct community
organizing (though much of it has struck RAANistas as just being
common sense) towards the construction of a "mass base" is
immensely important and seems to run parallel to the lessons that
have been slowly absorbed by the revolutionary movement over the
past several years.

As one can imagine, within MJS there is a certain humorous tension
between what might be called the "reformist" and "radical" factions,
all of which are nevertheless working together on the campaign.
Although it is definitely not my intent to play up the ideological
divisions within MJS, (which, truth be told, are quite minor) it is
worth noting that the Venezuela issue has shown itself as an
extremely effective means through which to insist on the
(necessarily) ultimately revolutionary character of any serious
confrontation over coal production. During the course of my
presentation on Venezuela at the training camp (which included a
segment of Nuestro Petróleo) and the Q&A that followed, the
RAAN analysis was actually used with great success not to divide
the movement, but rather to push a lot of the "reformists" towards
thinking in terms of a more systemic critique that goes beyond their
immediate bioregion or local government - a fact for which I was
later personally thanked by many of the participants. Only a
communist analysis is capable of truly explaining Bolivarian
Socialism within the global context and connecting issues of energy
consumption worldwide back to the capitalist model of development.
In the end it is for this reason, rather than as a result of anything
Chávez has said, that the Venezuela issue will prove so useful as a
sobering tool with which to disseminate the ideas of RAAN and
promote a more militant approach from movements that might
otherwise have ignored the situation or offered uncritical - and
unprincipled - support directly to the bureaucracy.

News of the anti-coal movement in Zulia was met with great interest
from MJS organizers, who expressed a good deal of enthusiasm
towards connecting their mutual struggles. This will now tie into a
larger drive to create an international network of support between
coal abolition activists, which hopefully will also include Navajo
populations resisting mountaintop removal and the accompanying
destruction of their land and water supply in Black Mesa, Arizona.
This should continue to be a hot issue around which to organize for
some time, especially with companies such as the infamous Peabody
Inc. active not only in Appalachia and Black Mesa, but Venezuela as
well. One of the major steps yet to be taken in terms of cementing
solidarity between these international groups - and in the process
raising everyone's general sense of vitality - is to coordinate
simultaneous protests and other actions between the US campaigns
and those in Venezuela (hopefully, spanning several different cities).
Planning for this has already begun around a couple potential dates
later in the summer and if successful, these collaborations will be
among the most significant results of our work.

25. FINAL THOUGHTS

"We don't care who gets elected ... because whoever it is will be
overthrown." - Subcomandante Marcos (Mexico)

Although I have been stressing the tactical imperatives of connecting
US anti-coal struggles with those in Venezuela, the general issues of
Bolivarianism and the "Socialism of the 21st Century" have proven
so interesting to such a wide variety of people that to organize with
an awareness of it has become a great way to ensure that our
message reaches a larger audience. Larger, for instance, than if we
had been elaborating the same radical positions in relation to
something more obscure such as the "Other Campaign" (La Otra)
currently underway in Mexico (which nevertheless remains an
incredible example, which provides a valuable contrast to what is
happening in Venezuela).

Many people have an unshakeable faith in Chávez, but my
experience in the United States has shown that the majority of
homegrown "Chavistas" are really just looking for information and
ways to support the Venezuelan people, and are usually incredibly
receptive to anti-capitalist critiques of the government, particularly
as most of the information contained in this report has not been
widely distributed until now. If we maintain our posture of insisting
on the complexity of any debate regarding Venezuela - not to
exclude the ideas of the Chávez but rather to make sure that our
own and those of the Venezuelan masses can be heard as well - I
think North American anarchists can do quite a bit of good on this
issue.

As we seek to add depth to the debates already underway within our
movement and society at large, it will of course be crucial to keep up
with the unfolding situation on the ground as it develops - possibly
into something completely unprecedented! The WSF was in fact
nothing more than a grandiose election-year kickoff for Chávez,
who is facing a poll in December. As explained above, the outcome
of this election is not really in question, but its aftermath certainly is.
For many Venezuelans, the election represents the final "stamp of
approval" on the Bolivarian process, and as such must be
immediately followed up by radical changes, potentially including -
but certainly not limited or defined by - judicial and political reform
as well as some type of action against the institutions of private
property. It is well within reason to believe that thus far, Chávez
simply has not had enough "breathing room" in which to implement
truly revolutionary and irreversible initiatives as demanded by the
Venezuelan people. However, few believe that this would be the case
if he were to overwhelmingly win another seven-year mandate, and
so look to December as a "point of no return" after which Chávez
will either implement sweeping changes (how, no one is sure, since
the bourgeois state remains intact) or risk becoming irrelevant as the
masses decide to return to strategies of extra-parliamentary,
anti-political action.

Between now and December, it will be our task to play up the
contradictions within Bolivarianism to the greatest degree possible,
setting up a situation where the December election can be seen by all
as a great test for the revolution, and likely a very divisive one.
Simply put, people are just really tired of election after election,
which is what you might expect after seven years of supposed
revolution. Many of the most important social movements in
Venezuela - both Chavista and otherwise, including the Zulia
campaign - have seen in the election year spectacle a brilliant
opportunity for forcing Chávez to "walk the walk". For instance if in
the midst of his populist campaign frenzy, Chávez can be
persuaded into making some sort of definitive remark regarding the
destruction of indigenous land caused by coal mining, such
statements could then presumably be used against him when he fails
to act on them at a later date. We're also going to be seeing a lot of
people doing advocacy that specifically deals with the Bolivarian
Constitution, and particularly the many ways in which reality fails to
live up to its more "progressive" articles. While such strategies are
ultimately defeatist since they seek to squeeze politicians and the
state into our own conceptualizations of revolution, (a decidedly
incompatible match) they can be useful in cases such as this one,
where there is so much riding on the continued credibility of one
man, and the legitimacy of the political structure itself is being
questioned openly by vast sectors of the revolutionary class.

Support for the state, especially a "Bolivarian" one, is rooted in
liberal doctrine, nationalism, and the Northern Left's search for a
"painless pill" (reformism) that will supposedly allow oppressed
peoples to liberate themselves or "be" liberated without the
occurrence of any fundamental ruptures in the capitalist mode of
production. To support Chávez - and only Chávez - is to deny the
whole breadth and trajectory of the Venezuelan and international
revolution, effectively condemning class struggle to a supporting role
subjugated by - and in justification of - the State and its executive. In
a text well over a century old that many in the movement would now
do well to remember, Karl Marx encapsulated this issue rather
succinctly:

"But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made
state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes. The centralized
state power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police,
bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature - organs wrought after the plan
of a systematic and hierarchic division of labor - originates from the
days of absolute monarchy, serving nascent middle class society as a
mighty weapon in its struggle against feudalism." - The Civil War in
France

Or to put it in simpler terms, there is no reason as to why the
Venezuelan situation should call into question our core beliefs and
strategies, especially in regards to non-participation in state politics
and hierarchal organizations. If anything, now is the time to enhance
our understanding of these anarchist/communist positions and,
through exploring the material reality, reaffirm our commitment to
both them and their practical implementation. This reflection has
already been undertaken by every revolutionary movement of the last
century, particularly those that were routinely sold out by Leninism,
populism, and other forms of left-wing capitalism. We now have
their shoulders and experiences to stand on, so the repetition of past
mistakes is inexcusable - the decades of trial by fire which have led
us to this point have also produced as good and uncompromising a
slogan as we'll ever need: Que Se Vayan Todos!
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