Contributed by Joe Montero
This is the last of a series of articles on a recent visit to Venezuela. The previous ones described specific experiences. Now is the time to round this off with some of my overall impressions, which in addition to providing a summary, have some relevance to the situation in Australia.
Experiences being accumulated by the Venezuelans living though momentous times, are extremely rich in content and worth taking note of. Being there, our little delegation was able to talk to many Venezuelans, and delegates from a range of countries, who with us, took part in the three day International Meeting Against Imperialism in Caracas.
It is clear. Many of the challenges Venezuelans have faced are strikingly similar to those being faced by other nations, although they do take different forms.
There is the rise in neoliberalism, accompanied by the shift towards increasingly authoritarian government, sowing distrust in traditional political parties, politics and institutions. The degree to which this has happened, varies from place to place. But it remains the common reality.
Along with this comes, if we are honest about it, the political fragmentation of those who aspire to oppose these developments.
It is a special problem for what is usually called the ‘left’. Most countries have a collection of grouplets, seemingly preferring to live in the margins, preaching theory isolated from the practical needs of the day. They have separated themselves from the broader population, lack the capacity to reflect and make adjustments to tackle the emerging reality.
Venezuela, we were told, has shared in these problems. Neoliberalism and authoritarianism took on particularly acute forms. It forced people into responding and the rest is history. There was also the fragmentation. They worked to overcome it and have achieved an impressive degree of unity, between many political organisations and be at the centre of the nation’s politcal life.
This has not just been a matter of the ‘left’ coming together. It is about achieving a much broader political unity, around the clear objective of finding solutions to the nation’s economic and social needs. This is based on the understanding that it is not good enough to rely on the existing institutions. Appealing to the state to provide the answers, gave way to efforts to building a new political power, from the ground up, to construct the future. Demanding transformed into doing.
With this, new forms of collective organisation have been rising. Much of our visit was devoted to seeing first hand, and talking to those involved at the base. The essence of this movement is ordinary people coming together, where they work and live, to make decisions, carry them out and therefore achieve their own political power.
Liberation is empowerment, they told us.
The following short video from Venezuela Analysis about one of the communes we visited in the Columbia border region of Apure. It is a good example of what is going on throughout Venezuela.
Rather than relying on government and the public sector for everything, there has been a shift to relying on themselves and their communities, to provide for their needs. the means is though collective organisation.
While the government operates at the macro level, the organised communities operate and the micro level, and through this, exert their authority on the macro. This is politics form the bottom up.
Sometimes, there is tension in this relationship. There is also tension between the new collective emerging economy called the social economy and the private sector. These tensions are natural. In the present context, they are secondary. Building unity between the social economy, small medium and even some large businesses, around a clear objective of meeting the identified needs of the majority is more important.
How this will unfold in the future is up to Venezuela to work out.
The lesson for all of us, is the need to focus on the core important that is the basis for unity, throwing out the baggage and building unity. The building a new democratic political power together, based on the specific conditions of the nation.
Implied in this, is that the cheap politics of name calling, the blind application of generalised theory that has and cannot have a connection to practice, the style of we know everything and everyone else knows nothing, a mechanical approach to history and contemporary events, must all be put to rest.
Seeking knowledge through a deep understanding of the details, listening to people outside the immediate circle and taking their contributions on board, developing a political style that genuinely emphasises service to the people and not oneself or the sect, working with them to build a collective vision and then going out together to make it a reality, are the ways to bring about this shift.
All of this has bee nachieved to a remarkable degree in Venezuela, and we can all learn a great deal form their example.
It also shows that when a society seeks to break from the existing order and build a new future, it will inevitably meet serious resistance from those whowant to keep the old order. Mostly, because they fear losing their privileges over the rest of society. Some are prepared to carry out extreme acts. Venezuela is not the first place where this has happened. But it does serve as a reminder of the fact.
A reaction must be expected, and this brings up the question of how to counter it. Venezuela continues to survive as a result of having paid attention to this question. Building collective organisation and power on the ground is the best defence. It allows society to be directly involved providing for economic and other physical needs; for building the political will of the nation.
Through this, production can be organised in a way that can overcome many of the difficulties. It also creates space for political discussion and development, making decisions and implementing them. It provides the cpacity for widespread study of philosophy, political theory, the nation’s history and traditions, how these relate to the present practical reality, and the means to build a road towars the shared vision.
Organisation like this, builds the capacity of communities to defend themselves against attacks that take away necessities for a decent life. One part of this defence, is to produce and build the economy and services. Another is to build the capacity of communities to protect themselves against physical attack, whether it be caused by sabotage, acts of terror or the threat of foreign invasion.
From a government’s point of view, a big part of this is preparing the armed forces. A lot more can be achieved by relying on the the social sectors to take part though a trained and armed civilian militia. Local communities can then take part in defending themselves. thr militias exists throughout Venezuela and now has 4 million volunteerr members, out of a population of 32 million.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that Venezuela has been able to withstand the severe pressure put on it over recent years, because of the existence of its ground up political movement and preparation to defend its gains.
A final note. Venezuela is helping all those who will listen, to reject false accusations made by those who have a hidden agenda, and those whose prejudices prevent them, from seeing what is really going on.
So when some pronounce the existence of a dictatorship, call their battle against change a fight for freedom, while increasingly turning towards championing acts of terrorism and other acts that target the population, their truth must be brought out.
The nthere are those, who insist Venezuela is doing wrong by not bringing about change in the way that they prescribe. Such people would be far more useful sorting out their own shortcomings , stopped stereotyping, chose a little humility and actually came to understand that preconceived formulas and surface impressions, rarely match reality.
Here in Australia, we need our own collective renaissance, which identifies what we have been doing wrong and to provides the best conditions, to build our strengths and a movement, which enables us to engage in making our own change.