Bolivarian Venezuela: Governments Lie

Venezuelan Constituent Assembly Elections July 30 2017

President Nicolás Maduro's unpopular call to rewrite the 1999 Constitution is bringing Venezuela many steps closer to the feared civil war in the country.

“All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”
I.F. Stone
For Lanny, who, after everything, will still be asking me to trust a government.

I.F. Stone wasn’t an anarchist—his political journey took him through the Socialist Party, then an association with the Communists (as "fellow traveler") before he settled into a liberal radicalism just a few steps shy of anarchism—but he had the clarity and the critical acumen to never trust authority, especially in the form of a government.

I’ve recently been in conversation with a leftist who still supports the Bolivarian government of Venezuela. I quoted I.F. Stone to him and told him I trusted the Bolivarian government and its mouthpieces (TeleSur, venezuelanalysis.com etc.) about as much as I trust Voice of America, which isn’t much. I don’t smoke that hashish anymore even if, like Stone, I’m also a few steps shy of calling myself an anarchist.

If you think the Bolivarian government pulled even 40% of the vote in the “election” of Sunday, July 30th, I’d recommend reading Francisco Toro’s piece (Full disclosure: I volunteer at Caracas Chronicles, and proudly recommend it as a source for diverse perspectives on Venezuela). And if you still believe the Bolivarian government's version, I’ve got a bridge to sell you while you’re still high on its hashish.

Regardless of what the final number of voters were (some 2 million as the opposition claims, or over 8 million, as the government claims), some 80-90% or so of the population opposed modifying the constitution and 73% prefer general elections. Of course statistics also lie, depending on who is gathering them, but what’s clear from the voting process on Sunday July 30th is that the new Constitutional Assembly that Maduro called as a “way to bring peace to the country” will have the opposite effect. The gulf is growing between the government and the vast majority of Venezuelans. Those three out of four Venezuelans who lost some 9 kilos of weight last year as a direct consequence of policies of the “revolutionary” Bolivarian government, are increasingly seeing no way out of the situation other than direct confrontation. And, of course, the Bolivarian government is happy to play the game of one-upmanship in violence: after all, as is always the case, the government started the game.

In response to peaceful demonstrations the end of March 2017 the Bolivarian government sent in riot troops who lobbed tear gas into the massive crowd, initiating what may now become a civil war. Since then, in now over four months of daily protests, well over one hundred people have been killed, the vast majority of them by National Guard and the Bolivarian police. But that matters very little to Nicolás Maduro with his Leninist politics and his arrogant disdain for what the Venezuelan people want. The National Constituent Assembly he’s called together to rewrite the Constitution his “father” Hugo Chávez left as what many hoped would be his only enduring legacy has only one aim: to ensure his hold on power. That, at least, is how the majority of Venezuelans see the situation in the country, and in politics, perception is all that counts.

I watch all this unfold from San Salvador, El Salvador where I’m scheduled to read poetry in a festival dedicated to Archbishop Oscar Romero. I should be elated to be part of the celebration, but I’m sad today. Watching Venezuela edge closer to a civil war because a tiny, corrupt elite clings to power against the will of the great majority, from the vantage point of El Salvador, one can’t help feeling that we’re watching reruns, but this isn’t television. The very same situation in El Salvador resulted in the death of some nearly 200,000 people and left the country traumatized to this very day. Back in those days, I supported the majority of Salvadorans against a right wing dictatorship; today, I support a majority of Venezuelans against a left wing dictatorship. My loyalties have remained the same, but my politics have changed dramatically. I no longer believe in this game of “left” and “right.” For me, there’s only a “top” and a “bottom:” elites who rule by stealing democratic processes, and the vast majority who demand to be heard and obeyed as is, in my mind, at least, their right.

My friend, who we’ll call Jose, to protect his identity, an ex-chavista, kept me informed of the events of the past few days by WhatsApp. Not usually one to get too much into the nitty-gritty stuff of politics since, like most ex-Chavistas, he drifted first into the camp of the “ni-nis” (“niether” chavista “nor” opposition) before joining the opposition on the street, he spent the day of July 30th building barricades in his neighborhood to try to detain the riot police. In the end, the police, military and national guard killed 5 people in his state (Mérida) and “disappeared” some 27 others. None of this, of course, gets published in the government press. Rather, the Bolivarians talk about a peaceful July 30th when “Venezuelans went out to vote massively, and happily, with smiles on their faces” (to quote the Chavista politician Jorge Rodriguez).

And so the day after the election (July 31) when I asked Jose what the opposition had planned, he said, “They’re going to heat up (encender) the streets again.”
“Isn’t that going to complicate things even more?” I asked.
“Yes, but it’s necessary.”

It’s strange how you never really know where you’re going in life until you get there.
When you’re in the moment, it’s so very hard to learn from history.

Comments

teh
Jul 31 2017 20:37
Quote:
he settled into a liberal radicalism just a few steps shy of anarchism
Quote:
even if, like Stone, I’m also a few steps shy of calling myself an anarchist.

Is that what anarchism is- a radical form of modern liberalism? Anti-fascisms "democracy is good but we want more democracy"? I mean I've heard this line from opponents of anarchist groups but from anarchists themselves? It just seems at odds with the history of anarchism from the period when it played a significant role in the life of many counties national politics.

Quote:
, I’d recommend reading Francisco Toro’s piece (Full disclosure: I volunteer at Caracas Chronicles

Caracas Chronicles has always been the premier English language blog for anti-left Venezuelans. I remember as far back as more than a decade ago reading recommendation profiles for it in the NYT - the official mouthpiece of the dominant section of the US ruling class. Why should I feel sympathy for Venezuelas upper layers in the name of the people? They'd be quite content with the social status quo of the country since its foundation.

Quote:
Back in those days, I supported the majority of Salvadorans against a right wing dictatorship; today, I support a majority of Venezuelans against a left wing dictatorship. My loyalties have remained the same, but my politics have changed dramatically. I no longer believe in this game of “left” and “right.” For me, there’s only a “top” and a “bottom:” elites who rule by stealing democratic processes, and the vast majority who demand to be heard and obeyed as is, in my mind, at least, their right.

The neither left nor right matra is the dominant ideology of capitalism from the past generation. Democracy's promise of equality is hollow because its based on a class system which is by its very nature a "top" and "bottom" social organization.

If the right wing of the Venezuelan political class has the majority on its side why the need for "civil war"? I mean today all US papers have "civil war" in the headline re: Venezuela; based on past consistent examples that means civil war is what is being worked for behind the scenes rather than journalist soothsaying. In much of the rest of South America the Right has expelled the pinkos with much less social destabilization and unrest. Looking at the Ukraine-style coup in Brazil (which is undergoing a century-worst recession) or the electoral displacing of neo-Peronists in Argentina and one gets the impression that Venezuela's traditional political class is so set on street mobilization and armed overthrow precisely because it is so weak relative to Chavistas and unable to get the "vast majority" on its side. And if they do what happens? Neither Brazil nor Argentina nor the other South American have been able to overcome the economic and social and political crisis in their countries.

paulelliott
Aug 1 2017 20:30

I have read that, among other things, on the constituent assembly's agenda is some kind of constitutional recognition of the right to hold direct democratic city and community assemblies.

I see this as the most interesting thing to watch for, because if done right it can usurp power from the representative democracy of the the National Assembly, and give it to communities and munis.

Seems very good. I wonder what you think. I also do not trust anything maduro says, but read that many ground organizers are supporting anti-elite language in the new constitution.

Rob Ray
Aug 2 2017 09:29

The moment someone starts feeling the need to slather the content of their legislation with anti-elite rhetoric is the moment you should start looking for the anti-working class measures they're trying to hide.

Spikymike
Aug 2 2017 09:37

So maybe these ''anti-elite'', ''ground organisers'' should stick to their ground and not be taken in by the ''language'' of the current state-capitalist regime as others might be taken in by the 'pro-democracy' claims of the political opposition?

Ed
Aug 2 2017 10:07

So, following how aggro people got about this piece on Facebook, I posted up this 2015 interview with Roland Denis (cheers to K Dog who originally posted it in a previous discussion on the site), who was actually part of the Chavez govt between 2002-2003. Venezuela fanboys would do well to read it as neither the man nor the source (Venezuela Analysis) can be said to be pro-Opposition. He says many similar things to the article above (and other critics of Venezuela). Some quotes I pulled from it which I thought were particularly interesting:

Quote:
"from that same year [2005] onwards, in spite of the radicalism of the ideas, a corrupt bureaucratic and military caste began to seize leadership positions within the party and government, rolling back large swathes of their democratic and emancipatory content to the point of creating a sort of political autocracy that took advantage of the support of Comandante Chavez himself. This began forming a model that we have called a corporate-bureaucratic republic which stands in confrontation to [both] the self-governed republic created by the grassroots, and, of course the neoliberal republic driven by the Right."
Quote:
"The popular workers' movement that threw itself in the struggle to truly change things regarding land and industry (the bases of a new society) was largely crushed by the imposition of ferociously corrupt officials that directed the expropriated companies"
Quote:
"If you ask me about the concrete personalities in this caste [...] There's not four or five, there are hundreds who in turn have created their own networks of collaborators and frontmen. There might be a few who are exceptions, but all of the Chavista governors are on the list"
Quote:
"The corrupt caste is already a proto-bourgeoisie that has the government practically in its hands, very enriched, with a lot of capital abroad, made up of totally national and transnational capital."
rooieravotr
Aug 2 2017 12:50

Maduro is not the Friend of the People that too many leftists make him out to be. No support for his government. No support fopr the main forces of the opposition either. It is true that many, many Venezuelans oppose the government. But many, many of these SAME people oppose the right wing opposition - an opposition that is not as peaceful as the OP makes it out to be, and openly supported by the same US that supported the El Salvadorean regime in de civil war that the OP mentions - just as well. No lesser-evilism! Not in support of Maduro, not in support of the main opposition either.

Guerre de Classe
Aug 3 2017 15:59

Venezuela: Capitalism and Class Struggle
https://libcom.org/library/venezuela-capitalism-class-struggle

The myth of the left is ripe to collapse
https://libcom.org/library/myth-left-ripe-collapse

Venezuela: Crisis, protests, inter-bourgeois political struggle and threat of imperialist war
https://libcom.org/library/venezuela-crisis-protests-inter-bourgeois-political-struggle-threat-imperialist-war

Popular Power and Socialism in the 21st Century - The modern clothes of Social Democracy
https://libcom.org/library/popular-power-socialism-21st-century-modern-clothes-social-democracy