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Venezuela, March 2004: The logic of our times

by El Libertario Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 10:58 AM

* A study of the current situation in Venezuela demystifying the image sold by the media and promoted by the current rulers or by those who aspire to take their place. Originally published in El Libertario # 36, the bimonthly newspaper of the Comision de Relaciones Anarquistas

The analysis of the situation that Venezuelan society is currently experiencing deserves an appreciation of the way we have been taught to think. We the victims of this methodology form our reasoning as a function of schemes, fragments, slices of time and space, of history and current events. This makes for an ephemeral society, a dizzy society, a society of the moment. The criteria for “analysis” circulated by the corporate and state media have not escaped such logic. That is why the economic, political and social situation in Venezuela seems to have no other solution: either leave president Chavez in power or replace him. That is, exchange an individual for another or grant legitimacy to the one in place. The proposal offered is whether to have a recall referendum on the presidential mandate or not.

Both rulers and opposition hide behind excuses rich in appearances but empty of content. On the one hand the Coordinadora Democratica aim their guns against “castrocommunism” and in favor of “liberty”, on the other the chavistas defend themselves from the claws of the “coup” and “fascism” because “Chavez is of the people”. Thousands one way or another protect themselves by identifying with the veil that shields the true motivations. Both proponents of the coup and of democracy reply to the same logic with a different discourse. Any hint of real change requires an understanding of past and present experiences. It’s not as simple as replacing an individual by another, a party by another, a color by another. It’s as complex as creating new forms of social organization. Neither proposes new alternatives: that would bring their self-destruction. The capacity for action implies some awakening and organizing of the people to achieve social empowerment in a measure greater than that of the State, its institutions and political parties. It is the capacity for self-determination.

In the past century all attempts to transform social relations and public welfare via the State have failed miserably. To think that working with the state will bring about change or social revolution represents a lack of understanding of its logic. It was created as the best way to implement capitalism, it has been capitalism’s tool and it has perpetuated itself even while today we speak of the free market. To get involved in it is to remain trapped in the web of capitalist social relations, the only ones that have existed and will continue to exist in the state. The State requires those forms of hierarchical relations even to whitewash dissent. A left wing state is an anomaly, it goes against nature. Anticapitalist state? Socialist state? Antineoliberal state? Failure. The changes in a pre-capitalist and a post-capitalist society are the result of struggle and new social forms. A leftist government is not efficient because it subordinates any dissent to electoral ends, promotes the Constitution as a program, laws as revolutionary solutions, undertakings as achievements, it inevitably turns conservative with the perpetuation of its rule as its only motivation. Even its most radicalized groups (such as the Tupamaros or the movement led by Lina Ron) have been legalized as political parties, revitalizing the worn out representative democracy and performing in the electoral charade. The Venezuelan reality confirms it: this government weakens social movements and struggles to reconcile the demands of global capitalism (see the government’s dealings with the energy, finance and telecommunications sectors). There is no difference between this government, the previous one and those who seek to replace it, the difference is only a mask, a matter of form not of substance. To recall one in order to install another is all the same. The current reality poses, in prosaic terms, a struggle between two forces that are not opposite. The reformulation or the sharing of power is the background. Both sides make use of the same obsolete, expired and patently inefficient formulas. The history of the current government is the history of its most ardent opposition.

Many praise the actual government’s acknowledgement of the 80% of the people living in poverty, of its needs and claims as citizens. This can’t continue to be the gag and flag of the rulers of the day. Even though collective memory appears faulty this reality started and became imperative 15 years ago with the civil uprising of the 27 and 28 of February 1989 that would not allow the continuation of the same errors. Why not admit that that was the spear for change? You can’t keep on using the excuse of a leader or a party as the sole defender, as the messiah of the neediest. People have already taken to streets to fight for their rights. To make good on the claims of the poor is a demand won by the many who were killed anonymously and will continue to be the business card of this government and those that will follow.

- There are no magic solutions

What has 5 years of government really changed, apart from words? What improvements have there been? Why is there only the political and not the economic or social referendum? Because today more than ever, economic and social policies are decided in places where citizens' votes are not required. The boardrooms of transnational companies, the financial markets, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the G8 - these are the great governors of the world, the people that no-one elected, the ones who never change, the ones who are responsible for one child dying of hunger every 7 seconds, the ones that the citizen cannot elect no matter how much he or she wants.

Over the next few months, political posters will be announcing "solutions" to our problems. Referendum or not, there will be at the same time a loss of memory which will cause us to repeat our failures and a failure to learn from the past, because history will be re-written as the powers-that-be see fit (an example being the proclaiming of 4th February as a "Day of Dignity"). Whatever the decision of the National Electoral Council, we have three years of electoral campaigning to look forward to, and with elections in the offing the politicians will be repairing the streets and tarting up the towns. We are, in fact, already in the midst of an electoral campaign and as usual the troubled economic situation is getting a facelift for our benefit. The country is stagnating in a profound crisis which many families are feeling acutely and which is not reflected in the economic data. The reality is 20% unemployment (in round figures). This means that out of an economically active population of 12,260,895 a total of

2,452,000 Venezuelans are without jobs. Again, of that economically active population, 54% are living inside the "informal" economy, that is to say 6,620,883 Venezuelans who have to get by as best they can. The economic profitability of companies is sustained thanks to the exploitation of millions of workers and of the misery of almost 9,000,000 people who do not have enough to cover their basic necessities, and still everything has to go through the system: we have to vote.

The Venezuelan political scene goes on repeating the same things, demonstrating how little importance there is in who is in power, since it is unaware in any event of society. The same ones as before, newly revamped, the emerging leftist, rightist or centrist parties, they are

all always in the service of the industrial powers or the whims of whoever happens to be in power at the time (or both). They have demonstrated the uselessness of "representative" or participational" democracy. They have demonstrated their uselessness in all that affects us as consumers, as patient, as students, as customers, as mortgage debtors, as pensioners, as workers. In every field of our lives, we suffer abuses and are impotent in combatting them. The electoral urns have not solved the problem of more expensive food, of ever-worsening quality. Adulterated foodstuffs, genetically modified food, these monsters of chemistry. The vote will not change the fact that the cities continue to grow, covering and destorying the countryside, covering everything with asphalt in a society designed for the consumption of cars and petrol. Putting your vote in the urn will not prevent you being unemployed, nor the banks ripping you off, nor

arriving at the ago of 65 to find yourself without your basic needs. It won't put an end to real estate speculation, nor the problems that tenants have to face, people who live the lives of eternal convicts for the lack of their own house. They are without doubt structural problems, which are part of the architecture of the society that we have to live in, be it "bolivarian" or "squalid" - it's all the same.

As the garbage which the mass media spreads muddles the minds of the masses, they will forget about the unemployment, the beatings in the jails, the daily urban violence with its one hundred murders every weekend and the hunger which haunts most of us. But in order to change all this we must begin at the beginning - we have to stop delegating (in other words, refuse to vote) and start to change our social system, to transform the consciousness and relationships in our daily lives and organize ourselves!

* For more info about Venezuela & Venezuelan anarchism, see the english section in our website

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