Venezuela’s Revolution: Giving Power to the Poor
By Stuart Munckton
02/23/07 “Green Left Weekly” — — “We, and millions of people around the world … believe another world is possible, a world free from war, poverty and hunger. Here in Venezuela the [government of socialist President Hugo Chavez] along with the majority of the people in our country are fighting hard to build this new world, despite the attempts of the old elite and the US government to prevent us from succeeding.” This is what 25-year-old university student Germania Fernandez told Pablo Navarrete, according to a December 1 article on Venezuelanalysis.com.
Fernandez was participating in a November 26 demonstration in Caracas of 2.5 million people, in a city of only 5 million, in support of Chavez’s re-election on December 3 and his call to deepen the pro-poor revolutionary process his government is leading. Repeatedly slamming the “perverse” system of capitalism, Chavez insisted that December 3 would be a referendum on the construction of a “new socialism of the 21st century” — a “democratic” and “humanist” socialism that did not repeat the errors of the Soviet Union.
The results were spectacular. Chavez scored 7.3 million votes (63% of the total), the highest number for a presidential candidate in Venezuelan history and more than double his votes in the 2000 elections. Chavez has since declared: “All that was privatised, let it be nationalised.” The nationalisation of the telecommunications firm CANTV and Electricity of Caracas, both owned by US interests and amounting to 50% of daily trading on the Caracas stock exchange, has already been carried out. Chavez has given five oil multinationals in the Orinoco Belt until May 1 to give the state-run oil company PDVSA at least 60% controlling interests in their ventures, and has promised to nationalise gas.
These radical moves build on the gains already made by the Bolivarian revolution, as the process led by Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, is known. Named after Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish colonialism, the revolution has sought to challenge corporate interests and redistribute the nation’s oil wealth to the poor majority. A November 17 Venezuelanlaysis.com article by Calvin Tucker points out that according to opposition-aligned polling company Datanalysis, the income of the poorest 60% has risen by 45%. Navarrette reports that a recent census reveals the number of households living in poverty has dropped from 49% in 1998 to 33.9% in early 2006.
The revolution is also thoroughly democratic. Pro-Chavez forces have won 11 straight national elections and introduced a new constitution guaranteeing popular participation in government, including the right to overturn any legislation via a national referendum. The government has announced an extension of direct democracy, via the promotion of grassroots communal councils, and is also discussing workers’ councils in workplaces across the country to enable working people to exercise control over production.
‘Death of history’?
“This is not supposed to be happening”, you can almost hear them cry out in the corporate boardrooms. There is an air of disbelief in much of the corporate-owned media’s coverage of Venezuela. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, socialism was supposed to be dead and buried. History was supposed to have ended, with capitalism triumphant. What kind of weird, throwback retro act is playing in Caracas?
Yet no-one should be surprised. The “new world order” has brought the world fresh wars for corporate profit, worsening poverty and environmental destruction. In the 1990s, poverty greatly increased across Latin America at the same time as some 4000 publicly owned companies shifted into the hands of multinational corporations. Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin’s comment that the world was living in an “epoch of war and revolution” rings true today.
Read all of it here.