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Venezuela 2006: Anarchism against all odds

by Comision de Relaciones Anarquistas, Venezuela Friday, Mar. 10, 2006 at 4:08 PM

Our friends from abroad continuously ask us to explain our views about the current situation in Venezuela. This reply is based on two recent texts by the editing team of El Libertario, already published in their entirety in the internet (in Spanish), and from which we extract our main points.

º Neither shameful anarchism nor shameless anti-imperialism: a reply to P. Moras

The article «Anarquismo, antiimperialismo, Cuba y Venezuela» by Pablo Moras is a new attempt to nullify our perspective about the Venezuelan reality with lies and ignorance. Let’s start by noting what’s obvious upon reading it (it can be found at various websites): Moras ignores essential points about Venezuela. Even when he bothers to salute what he calls the El Libertario collective, he questions those groups from the Iberian peninsula that consider us a reference for understanding what happens in these lands. He seems ignorant of the concrete proposals we make in the pages of the voice of the CRA, or in other printed materials we have produced, or in our website or in the numerous contributions we have sent to many alternative media, where he could have found the vision we’ll try to condense in this reply. This lack of knowledge of what happens here is evident by the weak and generic paragraphs Moras writes specifically about Venezuela, which we will insist upon given his intention to invalidate, by means of platitudes, the thorough analysis of the Chavez regime and the national situation since Chavez assumed the presidency in 1999 that we publish in El Libertario. A complete list of these works is available in the Index section of our website

In general, it is absurd to promote the Komintern-like idea that “popular advance” and/or “anti-imperialism” is whatever self-defines as such. In the case of Venezuela, the popular advances in education, health and nutrition can only be seen as such from a position of total ignorance of the local history, since after the mid XX century oil income allowed for the fulfillment of certain needs in these areas in exchange for supporting the elites in power, exactly as it happens today (a detailed analysis in «Un Cardenal sermonea sobre las misiones» [A Cardinal preaches about the missions] El Libertario #45, November 2005). Regarding Chavez’s anti-imperialism we have amply shown (see the sections Petroleo, Coyuntura Venezolana [Oil, the Venezuelan Situation] and Luchas y movimientos sociales en Venezuela [Struggles and social movements in Venezuela] in the above mentioned Index) how this government has supinely given in to the imperial demands for the control of what matters most to capitalist globalization: the energy resources and other natural products and the market for manufactured goods, even those we are capable of manufacturing ourselves or those we used to manufacture until recently. The Comandante may shout whatever insults he likes against Bush, but that loud-mouthed anti-imperialism means nothing as long as he continues giving Chevron, Conoco-Phillips or Repsol the control of our reserves of oil and natural gas, continues giving Telefonica our communications, giving Grupo Santander and BBV our bank sector, giving Cristallex our gold mines and to Vale do Rio Doce or Peabody our coal reserves.

Moras talks about Venezuela using untenable statements. For instance, he makes reference to workers and peasants in struggle, alluding to the imaginative tales that Chavez’s propaganda spreads abroad regarding factory and land occupations, something that has happened in only a few instances and under government control, nationalizing bankrupt or seriously troubled agricultural and industrial enterprises, operating them in a regime of state capitalism with no intention of putting them in the hands of the workers. Perhaps such workers and peasants in struggle are what Moras imagines union bureaucrats of UNETE to be, who use their leftist running of the mouth to legitimize the forms of oppression that workers now suffer. It’s enough to mention the government’s conduct in their own co-managed enterprises, besides the fact that the command structure in the governmental administration is in the hands of soldiers and former soldiers. For an actual description of this situation, see the writings in the section Sindicalismo y entorno laboral [Syndicalism and the labor environment] in our Index, particularly «Fabricas tomadas: mitos, realidades y una postura libertaria» [Occupied factories: myths, realities and a libertarian stance] (#38) «Cogestion bolivariana-socialista» [Bolivarian-socialist co-management] (#43) and «Venepal no es de los trabajadores» [Venepal doesn’t belong to the workers] (#43).

On the coup of April 2002, Moras repeats the line that it was “frustrated by the people”, a very questionable hypothesis if anybody looks at the details of the power plays that took place between the 10 and the 13 of April 2002. We have published the work «Una encrucijada hacia ninguna parte» [A crossroads to nowhere], that describes the essence of what we wrote at the time about this event, which can’t be understood in the simplistic terms that Chavez’s propaganda and its foreign accolades propose.

On the other hand, Moras presents an idyllic version of the self-organization of popular sectors, which would be the result of the Chavez process. Here we refer to the precise picture we painted in El Libertario of how this regime –with valuable help from the social-democratic and rightist opposition – has been nothing but an obstacle for the advancement of autonomous social organization, by imposing political agendas that have denatured social mobilization to the point of near disappearance. The transformation of Bolivarian circles into purely electoral groups (now named Units of Electoral Struggle) is a clear example. The most recent references, among many others included in the section Coyuntura Venezolana [Venezuelan Situation] where we discuss this topic, are: «Más alla del Referendum» [Beyond the Referendum] (#39), «Propuestas para la coyuntura inmediata» [Proposals for the current situation] (#39), «El eclipse de los movimientos sociales» [The eclipse of the social movements] (#40) and «El socialismo Chavista» [Chavez’s socialism] (#42), as well as the editorials of almost all of our issues of 2004 and 2005. Moras’ key argument is that it is treason to “support the struggle against the Venezuelan state” as that would be “turning your back on ample sectors that are currently self-organizing”. As we point out in these texts and is easy to verify observing the local reality, this self-organization is a huge lie, and the grotesque experience with the remotely controlled organization of cooperatives is enough proof, since what takes place under the guise of the Bolivarian pseudo-revolution is just clients devoutly following the enlightened leader. Therefore, the only option for anarchists is to promote self-management outside of the institutionalized organization whose slogans, financing and dynamics come from the chief and his associates.

Words like “weakening capitalism” and the “timid advances in socialist culture and economy” sound quite diplomatic and serve to ingratiate you with the heirs of Marxism-Leninism that support Chavez today, but they ignore how efficient government has been in promoting transnational control of key sectors of the local economy, as well as other features that are the absolute opposite of any kind of socialism. Is it “weakening capitalism” to substitute the comprador bourgeoisie of the IV Republic by the “Bolivarian” comprador bourgeoisie? Is it appropriate to showcase as “popular advances” the fact that key indicators of welfare such as health, housing, nutrition, employment, social security, etc. function as badly as they did 10, 20 years ago, under a government that enjoys the biggest oil income of Venezuela’s history? (Statistics are available at Is it natural of anti-imperialism to unconditionally follow the one and only leader and to worship the pedestrian wisdom that emanates from his endless TV appearances? Is it advancing the socialist economy the construction by decree of cooperatives to sell breakfast or tend the gardens of the state’s oil company while the latter signs huge contracts with that Halliburton so well known in Yankee-occupied Iraq? Is it an example of socialist culture the fact that soldiers, active or retired, have taken by assault the control of the state’s apparatus, and that from that very same military root the majority of the new comprador bourgeoisie is emerging? Can anybody seriously think that the corrupt elite of followers of the leader that govern Venezuela today are the enlightened vanguard of revolutionary anti-capitalist change?

We find unacceptable that Chavez’s anti-imperialism, all talk and no action, is the excuse used to push the anarchist movement towards joining the chorus of that Marxist left of useful idiots and fellow travelers that deify the Venezuelan military today. It’s impossible to understand the country’s situation while remaining fixated on the deceitful image they sell us, that of each man for himself but playing a suspicious counterpoint, that of either a Chavez government or its social democrat and rightist opposition. The CRA and El Libertario have assumed a difficult path, but a path coherent with the anarchist ideal, building a vision and a road to action capable of breaking with the cheating proposals of those who vie for power. Faced with such gangs, we can’t choose a chimerical “lesser evil” or an impossible “tactical alliance”, since doing so would mean abandoning that which is specific to and non-negotiable in the anarchist ideal. If Moras wants to do so, that’s his problem … We continue in our struggle, because we have a new world in our hearts and that new world is growing right now.

º Talking about the Venezuelan situation

[From an interview with La Rosa Negra – counterinfo from Mexico in January 2006]

- We know that you fight in three fronts: a) against pseudo-leftist Chavista groups in power; b) against the anti-Chavez opposition directed by the social democrats and the right; and c) against groups or parties of the traditional left. Could there be a ghetto imposed by the state, the right and its social democrat allies and the traditional left for anarchists in your country, or is a retreat necessary?

* Whatever the socio-political situation in any given country is, those who wield or want to wield power will try to curb any symptom of consistent libertarian struggle by building “ghettoes” of repression, open or hidden, where to confine it. It is natural for the anarchist militant to confront the intentions of the powers that be, it is a task we must carry on without fail, and above all, without resigning ourselves to the supposedly inevitable condition of being excluded. In no way does the CRA retreat or hide within our shell waiting for better times, and whoever has direct contact with our activities or simply reads El Libertario with due attention and frequency, will find enough evidence that we’re not a group who stares at its own navel.

- We get the impression that the triumph of abstention in the past elections (12/4/05) and the retreat of civil struggle groups towards “no participation” is fertile ground for the forceful imposition of state (Chavista) initiatives. Is this perception true?

* We make clear that according to the government’s own statistics abstention, understood as the no participation in an electoral process of sectors of the population that could rightfully vote by virtue of being Venezuelan citizens and having the age to vote, has been the norm in all elections in this country since 1989, even during the referendum to recall the president in 2004, when the gangs from the political opposition and the demagogue government made a supreme effort to bring the incredulous masses to the polls. It is an error to qualify as civil struggle groups certain figureheads of the opposition that opportunistically gamble with abstention today, they aren’t in any way representative of real social forces in Venezuela. As to the rest, no doubt the Chavez regime tries to impose state control mechanisms everywhere, but being such a corrupt and inept government, blinded by thinking that is building solid popular support turning part of the poorest people into clients dependent on the state’s dole, it’s going to cost them plenty to make any advances in that contradictory chimera that it calls “XXI Century Socialism”, which is nothing but an underdeveloped capitalism of the XIX Century.

- Likewise, we think that the Venezuelan anarchists’ struggle became trapped in a sea of supposedly anti-imperialist propaganda, promoted by what we at LRN call the Kirchner-Chavez-Morales-Castro axis. Is this true? And if it is, will the Venezuelan anarchist resistance need to double its effort?

* We can’t understand how that perception exists, anybody who’s followed our actions and our thinking will find that we have not been duped by the fallacious “you’re with Chavez or else you’re with Bush”, as we have clearly shown evidence to dismantle this farce. It hasn’t been easy to uphold this position that smashes the simplistic schemes that have led the Latin-American left from failure to failure for over 80 years, and multiplying our efforts to keep our position has been the order of the day, but our consistency begins to produce results, undoubtedly modest but full of hope that fall within the renewed activity and presence of anarchism in South America, still a minority political expression but one that has made advances between the decade of the 90’s and today that are, quantitatively and qualitatively speaking, very important compared to what happened during the five or six previous decades. The challenge is to transform this modest renaissance into the ability to make a significant mark on the process for positive social change sorely needed in our continent.

- The Kirchner-Chavez-Morales-Castro axis has several faces: it presents itself as the triumph of parliamentary democracy and conversely, as the standard of struggle against the empire, as mediator of popular social movements and consequently, as the catalyst for civil resistance. What defensive wall do the Venezuelan anarchists have?

* You’re asking us about our main proposal for action right now. Let’s quote a paragraph from our editorial of El Libertario #44: “We are not, nor do we want to be, contenders for the control of institutionalized power: we are anarchists and we aspire to the disappearance of state power and any other oppressive hierarchical structure. This is not just a profession of faith; our actions here and now mean assuming the commitment to promote and empower the autonomy of any social movement consistent with the ideal. Therefore, we are not interested in building ‘anarchist social movements’ that would prove as useless to collective progress as the Bolivarian circles or those opposition parties disguised as NGO’s. We bet on social movements that build the dynamics for independent action and organization, based on the widest participation on all levels that will allow the formation of different modes of direct action and self-management away from the state’s control or any other instance of oppression, it is the only way to consolidate spaces of freedom, equality and solidarity that will be the seed and support of the future we struggle for. Our position can be summarized with these words from John Holloway: to change the world without taking power”.

- In view of this, does the CRA-El Libertario think a wider effort to spread anarchist ideas is called for?

* Considering Venezuelan history, this educational task is a priority, because we have an environment where ignorance of libertarian ideals was almost totally absolute. After 10 years of activity we can point at some successes in this area, but they are hardly the beginning and there’s still much to do, so the spreading of anarchist thought is still a constant problem for those of us in this collective, and we invite all to get to know our work, getting in touch with us, personally or via email, visiting our locals and social clusters where we do our activities – such as the Centro de Estudios Sociales Libertarios of Caracas, and getting information about the CRA and El Libertario.

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