Chavez Dismisses International Disapproval of Venezuela’s Media Policy

As several hundred thousand Chavez supporters rallied in Venezuela’s largest avenue on Saturday, President Chavez rejected all international interference with his decision not to renew a television station’s broadcast license.

Caracas, June 4, 2007 (— As several hundred thousand Chavez supporters rallied in Venezuela’s largest avenue on Saturday, President Chavez rejected all international interference with his decision not to renew a television station’s broadcast license. Referring to the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, Chavez also spoke at length about how private media maintains a cultural hegemony that must be broken.

“Go to hell, representatives of the global oligarchy, we are a free country!” said Chavez to wild applause, once marchers reached the Avenida Bolivar in the center of Caracas. The demonstration converged on the avenue from two starting points, one in the east of the city and the other towards the city’s south. Unofficial estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from 300,000 to 500,000.

Chavez said he did not care that the world media was presenting him as a new Hitler or Mussolini. “What I do care about,” said Chavez, “is the sovereignty of the Venezuelan homeland.”

“The international elite are worried, they fear that the example of Venezuela will extend to other countries where they believe that they are the masters of everything,” continued Chavez during his relatively short one and a half hour speech. Every destabilization plan, warned Chavez, will be “responded with a new revolutionary offensive.”

Chavez also said it was sad that university students have been demonstrating in support of RCTV. “It continues to be sad that some students take to the streets – to defend what? … On whose side will they place themselves, on the side of the people or of the oligarchy, of the homeland or of the North American empire?” adding that the vast majority of students are on the side of the people. The images of student protests are just part of a “giant manipulation, a gross media spectacle.”

For Chavez, what is happening in Venezuela is very similar to what the U.S. has helped organize in eastern European countries, in the so-called “colored revolutions,” such as in Ukraine, where demonstrators succeeded in overthrowing the government.

Chavez also reminded his supporters that his reelection on December 3rd was merely the beginning of a new phase in his presidency, of creating socialism and that so far much had been achieved. Chavez mentioned that the “re-nationalization” of the oil industry had been finalized and that the new Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been launched and announced that until now 4,735,000 Venezuelans have been registered as applicants to be activists in the new party.

Antonio Gramsci as Key for Understanding Events in Venezuela

The thought of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci is fundamental, according to Chavez, for making sense of what is happening in Venezuela today. “I want to refer to the thought of Gramsci, to use his ideas, using the light of his thought, every day we understand better what is happening here today in Venezuela.”

Thus Chavez launched into one his longest and most detailed talks on the thought of Gramsci, explaining Gamsci’s concept of “historical blocs,” in which a particular class manages to acquire hegemony that is expressed in structures and super-structures. The super-structure, explained Chavez, consists of two levels, of the institutions of the state and of the civil society. The civil society, according to Chavez’s explanation of Gramsci, consists of economic and private institutions, through which the dominant class spreads its ideology.

The conflict in Venezuela can thus be understood as one between the institutions of the state, which used to be controlled by this civil society, but no longer is, and the old civil society. To this old civil society, according to Gramsci, belong the Catholic Church hierarchy, the mass media, and the education system as the principal institutions. The dominant classes use these institutions to disseminate their ideologies, explained Chavez.

This ideology of the dominant classes is disseminated in a variety of levels of abstraction, with philosophy being the most abstract. Below this level are belief systems such a neo-liberalism, the free market, the thesis of freedom of expression, of bourgeois democracy, of division of powers, representation as foundation of democracy. These are “Big lies!” exclaimed Chavez, with which for over a 100 years hegemony has been exercised.

On a third level is common sense, which is “the product of being bathed in the dominant philosophy and of the ideology in different forms, via soap operas, movies, songs, propaganda, billboards…” said Chavez.

The fourth level is “folklore,” whereby people simply express a preference as a result of manipulation, without knowing why.

According to Chavez, the Bolivarian movement has been “liberating” the state, including the judiciary, the legislature, the state-owned enterprises, from the control of this hegemonic “bourgeois civil society.”

Now this civil society is using its last remaining resources to fight for power, the Church, the mass media, and the universities. “From there is the importance of understanding the layout of the battle,” said Chavez.

Chavez also clarified that Venezuela’s oligarchy could live with the Bolivarian Revolution, because “we have no plan to eliminate the oligarchy, Venezuela’s bourgeoisie. We have demonstrated this sufficiently in over eight years,” said Chavez.

“But, if the oligarchy does not understand this, if it does not accept the call to peace, to live with us, that the great revolutionary majority is making, if the Venezuelan bourgeoisie continues to desperately assault, using the refuges it has remaining, well then the Venezuelan bourgeoisie will continue to lose, one by one, the refuges it has remaining,” declared Chavez.

Directed to Venezuela’s bourgeoisie, Chavez said, “We respect you as Venezuelans, you [should] respect Venezuela, respect the homeland, respect our constitution, respect our laws. If you do not, you will regret it, if you do not, we will make you obey Venezuela’s laws.”

The gathered crowd chanted, “This is how one governs!”