Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, a history lecturer, representative for the United Left Party in Spanish Parliament and Mayor of Marinaleda in Andalucia, Seville, is currently visiting Venezuela for the first time in solidarity with the Venezuelan process.
During his time here he has been interviewed on state television programme Giving and Giving, spoken on various community media channels and at various forums in order to share and debate socialist ideas, as well as to make known the achievements of his administration in Andalucia, where he was first elected in 1979.
Having been re-elected for the past 32 years thanks to full employment and housing policies, a radical land policy, citizen’s democracy and the implementation of social benefits for the poor, Gordillo has also developed “popular collectives” as an alternative form of local labour organisation and a series of agricultural initiatives aimed at promoting food sovereignty. Having weathered the financial crisis better than the rest of Spain, many citizens are now looking towards the Marinaleda experience as an example of a viable alternative to austerity. Several delegates from the Venezuelan government also visited the socialist municipality in 2011 to exchange ideas relating to socialism, local economic sovereignty and participatory democracy.
In Venezuela, Gordillo has been vocal in his criticism of what he describes as an inherently inhumane capitalist system, “bipartisan” democracies and of the European Union’s attempts to prioritise austerity programmes for the benefit of banking institutions at the expense of the people. The Mayor also confirmed that a housing area is currently under construction in Marinaleda which will be named after Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
“We are fighting for the same cause and fighting for the same objective,” he said.
Below Venezuelanalysis has translated excerpts from interviews with VTV, Correo del Orinoco and La Radio del Sur in which Gordillo talks about the relevance of Latin America, and particularly Venezuela, to current struggles in Europe.
VTV: How do you evaluate the current situation in Venezuela and other Latin American and Caribbean countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Cuba, which are currently united in this struggle against the capitalist model and how do they present Chavez in Spain?
Wow, the bourgeois press talk about him like a dictator, a demon. But there is a saying we use which goes, “the dogs are barking because we are advancing” (“ladran, luego cabalgamos”). You know if your enemies are talking badly about you, then you’re doing it right. I think right now, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, are hope for the whole world.
That’s why in the Venezuelan elections on the October 7th, you (Venezuelans)aren’t just voting for freedom, the people against capitalism, but you’re voting for hope, utopia, you are voting for Venezuela’s natural resources to be at the service of the people, you are voting for people. I believe that there are millions of human beings who are with that vote and hope that Chavez will win, both in the developing world and capitalist countries as well. You can go to the US where there are 30 million people who don’t have access to medical care, or 40 million who don’t have housing and they live on the street. Or go to Europe, any part of Europe, and there are people who sleep on the streets, thousands of people in the cities. That’s why I think this represents hope. I honestly believe we are in an historic moment with capitalism in systemic crisis, a profound crisis of the system. You (Venezuelans) are hope and light amidst all this, that’s how we revolutionaries from across the globe view this process, and the people who have always dreamed of a better world.
In terms of representations in the media, I maintain that whilst there continues to be a propertied class (terrateniente) then there will be a “media class” (prensateniente) – those who own the media. Four or five multinationals control the world’s news, they decide what exists and what doesn’t. They defend just one discourse, a mono-discourse. We are active ambassadors and followers of the Bolivarian revolution, which we support through our struggles. Because the best form of solidarity is to struggle against a common enemy, which is economic imperialism.
Correo del Orinoco: What do you think is the significance of the ALBA?
Through the ALBA a form of trade is being constructed which is crucial, in order to be able to survive the big business which is imposed by economic imperialism.
The fact that countries are helping each other to achieve communal wellbeing is an extremely significant revolutionary initiative. This is what used to be called proletariat internationalism or a philosophy of understanding and solidarity. Experiences like the ALBA are demonstrating that other economic models are possible.
La Radio del Sur: How is America, particularly Venezuela, viewed in your country?
I think right now it is viewed as a ray of light, because right now in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, you are taking back something essential, which is sovereignty. I believe that economic imperialism is the greatest thief of sovereignty from the people and nations, and you have broken with that. You have broken with the IMF totally, Ali Baba’s cave, and you have decided that your economy and your resources are yours. They were expropriated by the multi-nationals, it was they who expropriated. Here, you have recovered the concept of the “people”. You are trying to walk in a different direction and this is a concrete reference point for people trying to break with capitalism, and that’s essential. That’s why the experience of Marinaleda is so important, and that’s why Venezuela is so important, we need a concrete reference point.
Of course they are both concrete experiences with defects and failures, nothing is perfect. But Venezuela is trying to create a system where the human being is at the centre of the economy, where economic powers obey political forces, and where they are trying to create what Che termed the “new human being”, with new values, where what is important isn’t to earn money, but rather to be generous and in solidarity with other human beings.