On November 8, 2005 in the famous Town Hall in Times Square, New York City, a historic event in solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela will take place.
This event will feature speakers from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Movement, together for the first time in the United States, including Noly Fernandez, Director, Indigenous Health Care; Gonzalo Gomez, Aporrea; Guillermo Guevara, National Assembly Representative for Indigenous Rights; Jorge Guerrero Veloz, Afroaraguenos Civil Assn., Presidential Committee Against Racism; Miguel Hernandez, Historian, Central University of Venezuela; Leonor Osorio, NewYork Consul General, Bolivarian Government of Venezuela; Martin Sanchez, Venezuelan Consul for the City of Chicago; Fermin Toro Jimenez, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations.
Others on the program include: Padre Luis Barrios, New York City Council Member Charles Barron, Vinie Burrows, William Camacaro, Ramsey Clark, Professor James Cockcroft, Peter Coyote, Ben Dupuy, Jorge Farinacci, Bill Fletcher, Teresa Gutierrez, Curtis Mohammed, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s message, Professor August Nimtz, Marlene Jean Noel, representative of Leonard Peltier New York Representative Jose Serrano, Chris Silvera, Lynne Stewart, Roger Toussaint, Reverend Lucius Walker, and Attorney Leonard Weinglass.
The Unfolding Revolution in Venezuela: The Return of Solidarity and Internationalism
by Ike Nahem
The unfolding social and political revolution in Venezuela has riveted world politics from the barrios of Latin America and communities of working people worldwide to the boardrooms of top Wall Street financial houses. Since the election of Hugo Chavez as Venezuelan President on December 6, 1998, Venezuela has generated hope and solidarity worldwide but also consternation, fear, and even hysteria in the corridors of power of world capitals, particularly in Washington, the editorial offices of giant media conglomerates, and the universities and think tanks of the richest capitalist powers.
Why is this? The profound answer is really quite simple. Venezuela, like the example of revolutionary Cuba with which it has been so identified by friend and foe, has come to represent the actuality and potential of the struggle for a better world. The unfolding Venezuelan Revolution has come to represent the relentless struggle of the oppressed and exploited majority of humanity for their social, economic, and political interests and rights–for a world of social justice and equality where the interests and power of workers and peasants is paramount. Venezuela and Cuba represent the return of solidarity and internationalism in a world where the dog-eat-dog values of the “free market” were said to be triumphant and unassailable.
Under the government of Hugo Chavez, working people in Venezuela have increasingly put their stamp on the course of Venezuelan politics and society. This has shocked and enraged the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, its allies in Washington and Wall Street, and, for a while, large layers of the resentful, privileged, and self-consciously “white” professional middle classes who fell in behind a highly orchestrated and, at its peaks, hysterical anti-Chavez campaign.
Venezuelan working people have shown an extraordinary combativity and capacity for struggle in the last few years, defying and defeating repeated attempts by Washington and its allies inside Venezuela to halt the revolutionary process in the country and return it to the “stability” of poverty, corruption, and the social rule of a tiny minority. In April 2002 they beat back, through massive counter-mobilization, a U.S.-backed military coup. This was unprecedented in recent Latin American history and registered the political weakening of Washington’s political weight and clout. In 2003 workers defeated an economically devastating employers lockout, marked by significant sabotage in the strategic oil industry and the widespread closure of private retail establishments, by heroically reviving economic production and commercial exchange. Finally on August 15, 2004 a massive mobilization of voters resoundingly defeated a recall referendum aimed at ousting the Chavez government. The referendum was held under pressure from Washington, the European Union, and the leadership of the Organization of American States. These forces thought that the previous two years of turmoil and economic disruption and hardship would result in apathy and demoralization among the majority of Venezuelans and ensure a victory for the pro-imperialist minority opposition.
But they underestimated the determination and consciousness of the Venezuelan working people, the oppressed and exploited majority, just as they have always done toward the workers and peasants of Cuba. Today that majority has gained new confidence and great momentum in carrying forward a profound economic and social transformation in Bolivarian Venezuela.
Each advance in Venezuela has also fueled and deepened its alliance with revolutionary Cuba. It is Cuba which provided Venezuela with the doctors and teachers that proved that miracles can happen. Over 25,000 Cuban doctors, nurses, teachers, and athletic trainers are in Venezuela today. Cuban medical personnel are providing quality medical treatment and preventive education to millions of impoverished Venezuelan workers and peasants for the first time. Cuban educators are making a decisive internationalist contribution to the conquest of mass illiteracy. Venezuela is for the first time using the oil wealth of the country in the interests of the vast majority. Venezuela is providing revolutionary Cuba with crucial oil deliveries to counter Washington’s criminal, and intensifying, economic war on the island.
The solidarity between Cuba and Venezuela has become an inspiring example to all of Latin-Caribbean America, the entire so-called Third World, and even, increasingly to working people in the advanced capitalist countries who also face devastating attacks on our living standards, job security, pensions, and collective bargaining rights. In those countries formerly colonized or more indirectly dominated in the 19th and 20th Centuries by western Europe, the United States, and Japan–and who remain the plundered debt slaves of the so-called G-7 powers–the ideas and program represented by the political alliance between Caracas and Havana is an example that charts the only road forward to social progress, economic development, and real sovereignty and independence. That is the road of freedom from intensified imperialist exploitation through the agencies and mechanisms of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. These are the very institutions that have presided over the plundering and devastation of the overwhelming majority of humanity for decades, at a heightened pace over the past 20 years.
The example and revolutionary alternative to the present capitalist world disorder and social devastation represented by the solidarity-based alliance between Cuba and Venezuela has been forged in direct struggle with the imperialist world. For over 45 years the Cuban Revolution has fought heroically against the never-ending attempts by successive U.S. Administrations to destroy it. Cuba has emerged today from its battles with the current Bush Administration politically stronger than ever. Cuba today is in strong economic recovery from the near collapse of its economy following the disintegration of the regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries with which it had close economic and commercial ties. In both Cuba and Venezuela the road forward has been marked by the direct mobilization of millions upon millions of workers and peasants in a direct process of profound social transformation. They have found that along this path comes inevitable confrontation with the economic, financial, and military might of Washington and the European powers.
But these traditionally oppressive, dominant powers have weakened significantly in today’s world political reality. World politics today is marked not only by rising resistance to the existing financial and economic order–however grave and debilitating the crisis of leadership is for the oppressed and exploited majority–but by increasing commercial competition and trade conflicts between the dominant powers themselves–between the U.S. and the European Union (EU), within the EU, between the U.S. and Canada, and so on in the framework of the demands and interests of the so-called Third World. Sharp political conflicts between some European powers over the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq at bottom reflect and register this growing commercial and financial conflict within an increasingly vicious competition over world markets and an economic order marked by financial, currency, and equity instability, permanent crises of debt management, excess industrial capacity (overproduction of commodities), and inflationary pressures leading to rise in the prices of international commodities.
This relative political weakening of Washington and the European Union powers are creating time and space for the unfolding Venezuelan Revolution. Despite the repeated campaigns launched by Washington against the Chavez government in Venezuela–the most recent being Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s summer 2005 trip to Paraguay and Peru–the Bush Administration has been unable to win any significant backing for an orchestrated campaign to undermine and isolate the Venezuelan government. Neither has Washington been able to prevent the deepening of Venezuela’s alliance with Cuba and both countries increasing accords with governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact the opposite has occurred. When President George W. Bush travels to Argentina on November 3-4 for a scheduled Summit meeting of Latin American heads of state on trade issues, he will find further registration of the isolation of his politically impotent anti-Cuba and anti-Venezuela campaigns.
It has become clear to working people in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean that unequal trade and exchange, debt slavery, harsh austerity imposed by the International Monetary Fund has been the past and present, and will be the future for oppressed and exploited majority if the “neo-liberal” policies of Washington and the European powers continue.
But the fighting peoples of the Western Hemisphere are no longer acquiescing to the so-called “Washington Consensus.” Venezuela, under the Chavez government, has clasped the banner, long held high by revolutionary Cuba, of solidarity, unity of the oppressed and exploited, and integration of the peoples and countries of Latin-Caribbean America. The historic banner of Simon Bolivar and Jose Martí was codified in a December 14, 2004 Agreement between the two countries to establish the Bolivarian alternative for the Americas (ALBA). ALBA is the alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would lock, in permanent U.S. economic and financial domination. As President Chavez has stated, “We here in the south must be united…and here it is, everything points to it, the weather, the map, the waters, the land, the rivers, the subsoil, the sky, the stars, the peoples, the magic of our communities. Here in South America and the Caribbean, it is possible to form a powerful assembly of republics and nations, the union of the South.” Speaking to a tumultuous reception at the January 2005 World Social Forum in Porte Allegro, Brazil, Chavez said, “The FTAA is death. They now go for mini-FTAA’s because U.S. imperialism did not have the strength to impose the neocolonial model of the FTAA.” Promoting ALBA, President Chavez said, “We can’t for a sustained economic growth of 10 years in order to start reducing poverty through the trickledown effect, as the neoliberal economic theories propose.”
Among the Hemispheric initiatives the Chavez government has proposed and implemented have been the integration of Latin-Caribbean state oil and energy enterprises for the benefit of the vast majority and the creation of TeleSur, a Latin American satellite TV network to counter the monopoly of the pro-imperialist “private” media chains and their servile big-business clones in Latin America. Agreements have been signed with a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries to provide needed energy supplies at heavily discounted prices.
One of the most inspiring programs organized by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments is Operation Milagro (“Miracle”) which is restoring the eyesight to thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of working people in the Western hemisphere who have gone blind due to reasons that are wholly social and economic. Some 4.5 million people in Latin-Caribbean America require specialized eye care each year and some 500,000 actually go blind because they have neither the money not the access to such medical attention. Elinor Sherlock, Jamaica’s Ambassador to Cuba is quoted in the October 21, 2005 Financial Times as saying, “You see them, especially poor people who cannot afford care, staring in awe for hours out the window after their operations. It really is miraculous.” Cuban doctors travel to patients home country to determine their suitability for the surgical operations. Patients are then flown to Cuba with a companion where they receive treatment, along with food and usually hotel accommodation totally free of charge. Funds for this now massive program where up to 1,500 operations a day are occurring in some 14 facilities throughout Cuba are coming from a special social fund set up by the PetroCaribe initiative of Venezuela for the energy integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. More than two dozen flights a week are taking patients from the region to Cuba for treatment and recovery. This incredible program has received virtually no notice in the U.S. big-business press but is a huge story elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Washington and its increasingly low-keyed allies in Latin America see examples such as Operation Milagro as “propaganda,” a political threat and an example. One “diplomat” quoted in above cited Financial Times said, The idea is to create a contrast with U.S. free trade agreements, pressure the [International Monetary Fund], and make any area government that doesn’t take advantage look bad. Its hard to criticize curing the blind but there is no doubt the project has a propagandistic purpose.” To which the only sensible reply is, “Long Live Such Propaganda! Lets have much more of it.” No wonder the cited “diplomat” did not care to be identified by name.
What has been lacking in world politics today is not profound fact-laden discourses on the extent of world poverty, human misery and degradation or heart-rending accounts of human suffering and soulless documentation of this from demagogic politicians and professors who cry tears but nevertheless adhere to the system, the diplomatic niceties, and the “world community” institutions and mechanisms that perpetuate the very miseries and grotesque inequalities they so piously weep about.
No to all such mendacity!
Venezuela—in alliance with revolutionary Cuba—is an example of the complete opposite: leadership that backs up fine words with real deeds. Venezuela and Cuba represent precisely what is lacking: leadership and the political will to act and to act effectively
The ramping up of hostility, half-truths, and disinformation against the Chavez government in the big-business media and the governments of the imperialist world is in direct proportion to the deeds of that government in the interests of working people. And, what is just as galling to the apologists of this unsustainable and repugnant world capitalist order is the effective political communication and attractiveness of the political message-“propaganda”-of its policies and actions-and internationalist projections of a political course.
Each new neighborhood school and clinic, each adult worker and peasant who learns to read and write,… is an example to the masses of destitute in Latin America and the so-called third World that poverty, grotesque inequality, horrible schools for your children, miserable access to health care, and the richness of human culture are not some natural God-bequeathed social order that is immutable and, moreover, futile to try and change.
It can be changed and it is being changed in Venezuela today.
As Washington and its allies gear up for new attacks, solidarity forces in the United States must step up our anti-intervention activities and forge new links and solidarity between the peoples of Latin America and the United States.
The November 8 Town Hall event is a great example of what can be done.Ike Nahem is a coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York, a member of the National Network on Cuba. Nahem is an Amtrak locomotive engineer and member of the teamster Union in New York City. These are his personal opinions.