10) Rio Crescido

I came home from Venezuela with a better picture of the incredible obstacles to the chance for true, participatory democracy to grow strong and spread across one single country, much less an entire globe. But I came with renewed hope for the people of Venezuela, because they represent at this juncture in history, democracy's best hope.

 Quoting Alan Woods,
"A revolution, as Trotsky explains in the History of the Russian Revolution, is a situation where the masses begin to take their destiny into their own hands. This is certainly the case in Venezuela now. The awakening of the masses and their active participation in politics is the most decisive feature of the Venezuelan Revolution and the secret of its success.
Two years ago the spontaneous uprising of the masses defeated the counterrevolution. This is what served to accelerate the whole process. But two years later a new mood is developing in the masses. There is frustration and discontent. The aspirations of the masses have not been satisfied. They wish to go further. They want to confront and defeat the forces of the counterrevolution and are pressing forward."   source
If you read Alan Woods' Marxist viewpoint on the Bolivarian Revolution, which I referred to in the introduction and from which I took that quote, while he makes many good points, you will see the same old tired Russian Revolution phrases about the ruling class versus the workers. In the same vein, I see and hear the U.S. protest/activist community repeating the same old tired phrases from revolutions and "peace movements" past. (All you have to do is have a look at our current situation, and you'll see how far we got in the past 30 years of peace "protests".)

I don't know what the answer is (although I suspect it lies within the individual and not the group per se), but I do not believe the old avenues will work to bring about a lasting satisfying solution. Workers' revolution ideas didn't work for Russia in the sense that they might create a long-term egalitarian democratic society, and they won't work for Venezuela. (Workers' groups, any collective state, eventually becomes a system with a body and a head, which grows in the same pattern of inequality and inequity that it originally objected to.) I can only hope that Mr. Chávez and the Venezuelan people will have the right combination of inspiration, resources and support to find the key to make a success of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Admittedly, I am looking at that from my own personal estimation of a Bolivarian success - and that is authentic, participatory democracy. Was Bolivar's goal to place wealth in the hands of the masses or self-determination? While they are not mutually exclusive, there is a definite distinction. I do believe that Mr. Chávez makes the distinction, or at least did at one time, because of the remark he made in that video we watched at the union meeting which described his concern for the masses in their politically powerless situation (and at the same time lifting the stigma of their being poor): "Poverty is different than marginality."

Finally, quoting David Raby in a book review of Michael McCaughan's The Battle of Venezuela,
"Even more disappointing is McCaughan’s descent into the most superficial kind of journalism when he proclaims on p 160 that “the real Chávez - if such a thing exists - is to be found in astrological circles”. More seriously, he then goes so far as to suggest that Chávez has failed in an impossible task, and should retire from power “even if he survives the recall referendum test” (p 161). McCaughan’s reasoning is that the opposition is deeply divided, and if it came to power would be unable to impose its neo-liberal project on a people “who, through the Chávez experiment, have gained enormous awareness of their own power”. But this reasoning fails to take account of the evidence that the opposition in power would, as occurred during the 48-hour coup, take all measures necessary to reverse the entire Bolivarian revolution and to ensure that, as in Chile or Nicaragua, nothing resembling the Chávez experiment could happen again for at least another generation. If this led to chaos and disorder, so be it: the blame would be laid squarely at the door of Chavistas and “Castro-communists”, and armed repression would be justified as necessary to restore “democracy” and the free market."
While these things are absolutely true, and I have no doubt that Washington would be there in some fashion (if not by direct military intervention), the latest events in Venezuela, as I mentioned in the introduction, make it less than certain that there will not be armed repression by Mr. Chávez' government when all is said and done. The most recent step of having citizens act as "a substitute military service" to provide intelligence information to the government armed forces, as announced by the Defense Minister, could be a step in that direction. It will not matter that Chávez arrives by a different route than the neoliberal one if he still leads democracy over the same cliff.

Upon coming to the realization of the fragile position that authentic democracy occupies in our world, I have been scouring the internet for independent news and information that can help to uncover the facts about what is happening in Venezuela, and about my own country's political affairs. For without the facts, we cannot make informed choices, and without informed choice, we may as well have no choice. And without choice, we have no freedom.

The facts as they pertain to Washington's policies and activities in relation to Venezuela, as they are in our relationship to so many other countries, are in direct opposition to America's stated ideals about democracy and freedom. And so, for my part in attempting to protect and nurture the seed of authentic democracy (which we never had in this country), I am maintaining a webpage of links to information and online articles following the events there in its Bolivarian Revolution - U.S. Involvement in the Affairs of a Democratic Nation:  Venezuela.  (Note 2/4/2015: The link I originally provided no longer works, and I am not certain I still have these pages.  I shall look for them and update if I find them.)

It's the least I can do. Please feel free to use it, and this report, in any way that you find helpful.
To my new Chavista friends, I wish you the best of luck. I hope you can watch your government closely and hold it to its promise. Perhaps there is something in the nature of systems that only permits democracy and its counterpart, personal sovereignty, to grow to a certain degree. But perhaps the answer lies with the reach of every individual for that sovereignty. You are experimenting with a new possibility. My heart and spirit (and my webspace) are with you.

Columbia, Missouri
May 2004

"Here there occurred the surprise of the century…the coup was shattered against the wall of the Venezuelan people."  -- Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias

Photo: Jonah Gindin Venezuelanalysis

We are a river of people...and that river is overflowing.