Every process of social construction towards socialism has its own characteristics. Every people has its way of understanding life.
Arriving in Caracas during the Christmas period with images of the ex GDR [German Democratic Republic] or the USSR is a big mistake. The model mangers are everywhere, even in the military barracks. There’s no official government building without its mangers and its Christmas trees. In the metro stations of Moscow, sorry, of Caracas, Christmas songs are playing and there have even been some Christmas concerts – I’m serious – by the Venezuelan Orchestral System. They have delighted audiences. In Venezuela, the symphonic orchestra conductor Gustavo Dudamel is a mass idol, almost the only one in the world.
The Sabana Grande Boulevard [in central Caracas] is crammed with business - private businesses!!! - where absolutely everything is sold, anything a European consumer could desire is available and it is impossible to walk down the boulevard. The shops are full of bathing suits and bikinis because working Venezuelans with jobs, or given the fact that the unemployment rate in December was 6.5%, it would be better to say, the Venezuelans with decent jobs, are going on “December” holidays and there’s nothing that our people like to do more than go to the beach. Of course, looking at our beautiful Caribbean beaches, you can understand why.
So much so, that there’s no private or public business where you could even fit a safety pin. So much like that, that the “dictator” has called on the people to save – no, no he hasn’t imposed it, he has requested it, suggested it, as at Christmas time people receive their end of year bonuses, which are even bigger, proportionally, than what people receive in Spain.
Speaking of that, firing people in Venezuela is very difficult and, if it happens, it amounts to 105 days severance pay per year worked. Yes, 105, just like in Spain. Oh no, sorry, that’s 45 in Spain, if the worker leaves voluntarily. Listen to this, Spanish trade unions, and any trade unionist round there who wants to badmouth the “Castro-dictatorship” of this process – like the rightwing and the Social-Liberalism of Europe, 70% of Venezuela’s GDP is private. Yes, private!
There’s something else that attracts your attention, and it’s that there are private newspapers like El Universal, El Nacional, or El Carabobeno, among others such as La Razon and even El Pais [Venezuelan private newspapers, and Spanish private newspapers, respectively] that are constantly savaging the government. By the way, there’s a television channel, speaking of El Pais, that belongs to Carlos Slim, a stockholder in PRISA, who is friends with Felipe Gonzalez, who spends all day long harassing the “tyrant” [Chavez] and hoping that cancer kills him, immediately! And the dictator allows it! He really is extraordinary!
Christmas carols, mangers, bikinis, Caribbean beaches, Globovision... but what is this, people listen to rap in the streets, put on caps and rap outfits and t-shirts, ah, and the cowboys and cowgirls, of course... even the Barça [Spanish soccer team] shirts. What a shame. What a shabby Stalinist dictatorship.
So where is the socialism? Well in stupid things like thousands and thousands of dignified public housing that was handed over to the inhabitants of shanty towns -100,000 this year. Pensions given without having made social security contributions, economic help for children and single mothers or those who earn the minimum wage. Public factories of all kinds of products including vehicles, computers, telephones, farm grown food, with the brand “made in Socialism” written in white over a red heart. On the socialised farms as a result of occupations or expropriations. In the biggest refinery in the world, in Puerto Cabello, or in the nationalised – I kid you not - petroleum company PDVSA, even in the delicious cafes of La Fama de America, made in socialism. In free education and a huge red mental health hospital, free for the people of the barrios. These silly things are what prove that something very serious is being created. They are trying to make the transition to socialism.
Also, it is evident in the prohibition of evictions, in regulated prices, and in the abundant progressive social laws which limit many of the interests of the hoarding or speculating business people.
Everything is perfect then. No. There are failures, of course. But what is true is that the solidarity and generosity by Venezuela and its government towards the poor and the weakest people, including the poor from many Latin American countries, is as big as the lies directed by the world’s powerful against the Bolivarian revolution.
In any case, the cherry on the cake is the existence of public and/or nationalised banking - here there are at least five public banks. The Central Bank is subject to public management and fortunately, isn’t “independent” like in Spain and Europe. That means, linked to private banking and to the interests of the financial powers.
The cultural, educational, and participative work that still needs to be done is huge. Nevertheless, the “Chavez dictatorship” is working hard on the creation of popular power and is creating a new network of power- the communal councils, which function in the shanty towns and are open to all.
So who are the opposition then? Who generates so much hatred from the bourgeoisie and the oligarchy towards Hugo Chavez? There are a number of factors that feed that hatred. The first is classism, the second is racism – for a right wing white person, Hugo Chavez is the “black Chavez”. The third is the people who lost their fourth republican privileges [governments from 1958 to 1998], we are now in the fifth. There are also a huge number of parasitic rentiers, importers, investors, and speculators, lots of them, who [before the Chavez government] were dividing up the oil earnings among themselves and the U.S., as well as some of their employees who were aligned with the oligarchy. Also, on occasions, errors made by the bureaucracy of the revolutionary process.
There’s no perfect human masterpiece. But at least here, neo-liberalism is being fought whilst respecting the existence of strong business sectors. By the way, there are companies, mostly small ones, who support the revolution, given that they can work and develop their entrepreneurship within it.
But people are talking more and more of deepening the move towards an open and democratic socialism. Here, the strongest symbol of identity is anti-imperialism.
*Carlos Martinez is a politics graduate with the CEPS Foundation, and ex-president of Attac Espana.
Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com