Who Dares Evaluate the Bolivarian Revolution?

Venezuelan social movement activist Arlenys Espinal argues that the current opposition offensive should be combated by grassroots organizing rather than giving “triumphalist” support to the government.


Venezuelan social movement activist Arlenys Espinal argues that the current opposition offensive should be combated by grassroots organizing rather than giving “triumphalist” support to the government.

The current situation we’re experiencing is not going to stop, because it’s based on warmongering politics with economic and media elements, all directed at our psyche to bring us to our knees and agree to a governing pact that will (assuming it hasn’t already happened) substitute a participative democracy for the same bipartisan representation which the people kicked out in February 1989.

How could this happen after 15 years of the Bolivarian process?

It’s not so surprising to those of us who believe constant evaluations are a tool of struggle, but for those that have taken refuge in triumphalism and are simply left shouting “that’s how to govern!” it’s difficult to understand why the [opposition’s] attack doesn’t cease. They conform themselves in this decisive moment with supporting the government’s policies without an ounce of autonomy and much less indignation, automatically repeating “the supreme commander, Chavez’s legacy” while evading his [Chavez’s] final reflective contribution and self-critique, known as the Golpe de Timon speech, in which he clearly expressed, “Careful, if we do not recognize this then we’re done for, not only done for, we will be the ones to bring the project down. Those of us here have a great responsibility before history. Look at each other’s faces, look into your own eyes in the mirror… I more than anyone.”

We must remember and reconstruct the process in order to realize certain things that play a role in today’s circumstances. From 1998 to 2006 the Bolivarian people showed their grit time and time again, and [revolutionary] conditions were better than ever: a struggling people, an authentic leader with impact in Latin America and the world. Guaicaipuro, Bolivar, Zamora, Argimiro and Che were reborn. Our revolutionary values were exalted. But starting then, a machinery, an avalanche, constituting itself in a media and bureaucratic apparatus, began the march against our momentum, against the transformative power of the people which seemed invincible: in 1998 Chavez won, in 1999 the new constitution was ratified, 2002-03 the defeats of the coup d’etát and oil strike, 2004 the triumph of the electoral battle of Santa Ines, 2006 the overwhelming electoral victory of Chavez. It’s worth mentioning that leading up to this point each of Chavez’s victories was a victory for the people, the synthesis between the two in its maximum expression.

Making memory

Let’s remember how the workers rescued the petroleum industry and how we would corner PDVSA La Campiña each time the situation called for it. Let’s remember and locate the moment in which the people started to be left out, confined to see the process on television, voting and being used by official propaganda, with a predominating socialist rhetoric that insisted everything was fine; the economy, production, participation, communes… in short, the country was on its way towards 21st century socialism. At the time, mobilizations of very chavista people made their way towards Miraflores [presidential palace], to the Vice Presidency, to the Ministry of Land and Agriculture, trying to be have their voices be heard by these entities. The complaint, in general, was that the bureaucracy was not allowing the process to flow, but the government didn’t listen.

Remember the indignant episode of the indigenous leader Sabino Romero, commander of the Yukpa people, who came to wait two full days without achieving a meeting with former vice president, today’s president, Nicolas Maduro. Let us not forget the program on TVES [TV station], aired under pressure of social movements, en which the Yukpa leaders showed their ancestral maps and territory, interrupted and mistreated by the same man responsible for the “good television” at the time, William Castillo, today’s president of Conatel. Showing us once more how the bourgeois state doesn’t mess with little bourgeoisie, but it banishes, disappears and murders first nation peoples.

What we are experiencing today is not only an offensive from abroad, as the transnational economy becomes ever more determined to take our natural riches. It is also produced from the inside, from the neglect, the silence, the passivity that produces war, from the lack of belligerence that postpones action, from the lack of participation that transformed us from protagonists into beneficiaries. It is as if the enemy recognized our eventual weaknesses over the past seven years, which have taught us it is not enough to win elections, real power consists of something else.

What we are experiencing today requires us to get up to date with pending revolutionary tasks; the struggle against the three sisters inherited from the Gomez state [an early 20th century dictatorship]; corruption, impunity, and bureaucracy. The struggle to transform the extractionist model into a productive state without becoming a predator to nature, the struggle to transform our consumerist culture, to reclaim life on a human scale and promote self-sustainable community, or else what are the communes for? Also the constant struggle to be a part of the decision making that affects us as the Bolivarian people. For example, it’s worth asking; a peace dialogue without workers? Who decides peace?

What we are experiencing today has to do with the empty spaces, with what we didn’t do as a Bolivarian people. To paraphrase Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), women’s rights and worker’s rights activist and companion-in-arms of Rosa Luxembourg; if the revolution does not deepen, if revolutionary tasks are not accomplished, if transformations are not complete, fascism will see fit to restore the old order.

But let there be no doubt, we have to be capable of doing what must be done, because there is no defeated people! We will return through every possible route!

*Arlenys Espinal is an educator and social movement activist in Venezuela.

Translated and edited by Z.C. Dutka for Venezuelanalysis.com