by Andrew Kahn
In responding to the article written by “Catire”, a simple note is needed before proceeding. The value in individual accounts, about individual lives, in relation to a discussion on nationwide policies within a revolutionary government – or any government for that matter – are objectively relevant when they speak within a broader context to the lives of a majority or even a significant minority of the population. It is within this context that the charges and insinuations leveled against the successive people’s government led by former President Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas Maduro should be weighed and evaluated. For while the article title speaks of “How I was personally affected…” the larger article provides obvious overtones that call the reader’s conscience to oppose the Bolivarian Revolution in toto. One’s conscience is requested by Catire to oppose the Revolution because we are to believe that Catire is a representative of the general population. Thus, one individual speaks for the whole. The alleged victimization of the one is a microcosm of the repression and reversion of civil society as a whole. Or so we are to believe.
A rebuttal is made more difficult when general principles and ideas must be defended as the heart strings of individual suffering are attempted to be pulled, but I shall attempt to tweeze out the salient points from Catire’s personal revelations and analyze them on both the individual level of Catire himself but mostly in light of the general goals and trajectory of the socialist Bolivarian Revolution which is the actual target of Catire’s testimonial.
Catire begins with claims of being an average citizen, a working class citizen born during the 1970s when Venezuela was “called “Little Arabia” for the flow of money at that time came through oil.” Catire then states, “Unfortunately this has changed in the last 15 years.” As I read this, I was immediately jolted and wondered what it was about the flow of money coming through oil has actually changed in the past 15 years. Indeed, the criticism of the Bolivarian Revolution is that theirs is a one-track economy that is overly dependent on oil. If nothing else, this first paragraph alone should provoke a pause in the reader. It is made to be as if the socialism of the Bolivarian Revolution has dried up the oil in the country and led the nation away from this era of halcyon years of the 1970s. This is patently incorrect.
I was further puzzled by the complaint waged against the socialist government in the following paragraph. We were asked to recognize that Catire’s family – which works for a living and sacrifices as Catire notes – is unable to find credit to buy a house these days. This oddly comes after it is stated that his family acquired property during the years before the socialists came to power. Puzzling indeed this was – I was wondering if I was supposed to feel sympathy for the inability to acquire credit for property when a house was apparently already possessed. Perhaps this working class average citizen was attempting to expand property holdings beyond an already-owned house? Is multiple property holdings really the mark of a “working class” citizen? I confess I am baffled by this idea and clarification would be needed.
Within this context of the personal account being extrapolated as a means of generalizing to the whole, it should be clearly noted that while we are being led to believe that the working class citizens of Venezuela are being denied access to homes, the reality is vastly different. The Venezuelan government, specifically as a result of its socialist principles and concrete application of them, has guaranteed housing and home ownership to the working class. Indeed, halfway through 2015, Venezuela had surpassed 700,000 subsidized – many free – homes having been built and provided to the poor and working class in Venezuela ( http://www.telesurtv.net/ ). These are homes not based off the promotion of predatory loans and the credit system of capitalism. For those such as myself who live in the United States, we can only wish that the working class had such access to decent housing. Instead, the United States is plagued with predatory loans, foreclosures and neighborhood after neighborhood of boarded up homes and vacant houses. While Venezuela has been building homes despite being under siege from an economic war waged from Washington DC in conjunction with national and regional oligarchs, we see the United States, the beacon of middle-class dreams, is kicking its citizens to the curb, forcing its citizens into homelessness via foreclosures and allowing abandoned homes to be boarded up then demolished – all in the name of economics. Spare me as I shed no tears that the alleged working class of Venezuela cannot gain access to credit to acquire property when they already own homes. In the context of a socialist revolution, the 700,000 homes provided already to the actual working class and poor severely outweighs the “needs” of a bourgeois middle class that is “under attack” via the “repression” of difficulty in finding credit.
Yet not only are we to deplore this repression versus the “working class” – a repression manifesting itself in difficulty in finding immediate access to credit – we are asked for tears to well up in our eyes at the claim that now it is impossible, allegedly, to buy a new car or take vacations to the United States. Again, one needs to ask what the actual class point of view is being spoken in this article. Once more the personal is being extrapolated to generalize the society as a whole. This begs the question as to whether the Revolution in Venezuela, one that never claimed to be in the interests of the upper classes, is concerned, or should be, with such a class. For the actual working class in Venezuela did not enjoy, at any time – and certainly not in the days of the 1970s that were hearkened back to – access to easy credit, new cars or vacations to the United States. While some in Venezuela apparently bemoan the difficulty of making sojourns Up North in 2015, the vast majority of the population who are now food secure, education secure, house secure and job secure (all of these parameters having been internationally recognized) likely look askance and chuckle that their former ruling class is having to spend summers in Caracas and the region instead of the previous sorties to the north. In the scales of justice, millions who enjoy access to basic needs and can now sleep at night with a roof over their head and food in the stomach far outweighs the upper – or allegedly working class – visiting Miami’s Little Havana or New York’s Times Square.
It’s hard for me – and should be hard for anyone – to take too seriously the attacks against the Bolivarian Revolution. There is a vicious bent in these attacks; one which often manifests as an upper class pleading poverty and claiming working class roots when their actual status belies that they are part of a traditional ruling bourgeois class. Often seen these days are Venezuelans who enjoyed the spoils of the pre-Chavez years – when these spoils were literally spoils from the spoliation of the masses – attempting to ingratiate themselves to the clueless masses in countries outside their country by claiming “working class” status and then looking for sympathy as regards their alleged persecution – a persecution that is invariably a lack of “capitalist freedom” to plunder.
Yet what is this capitalist middle class freedom if not the freedom of racial denigration where the indigenous are looked down upon, their language and existence ground into a fine pulp and rejected as backwards and “not Christian”? What is this freedom if not the freedom to exploit the denial of the humanity of the worker? What is this freedom if not the freedom to use police forces to persecute – not merely arrest – the working class? What is this freedom if not the freedom to ignore the masses as they wallow in misery with no hope of dignity?
We must bemoan the lack of access to easy credit to purchase additional property. But, I demand to know, what of the credit access being difficult and the economy going through rough times? The hypocrisy! The bloody hypocrisy of it all! We hear crocodile tears being shed for the working class having to stand in line for food at government-subsidized grocery stores. Do shortages exist? Certainly. And why? Because the same tendencies in the bourgeoisie that claim to care about these lines are the same ones who bomb these grocery stores and profiteer from reselling subsidized goods across the border in Colombia…and then they decry the actions of President Maduro to stop this illegal smuggling of the people’s goods.
This is anything but a personal attack on Catire. The socialized nature of modern life and society prevents a class-based criticism of the opponents of the Bolivarian Revolution to be a personal attack. While opponents of the Revolution use personal anecdotes to wage an unholy war against a Revolution which has brought food, shelter, education and dignity to the masses, the response must be one that looks at the totality of the Revolution and not the discomfort of the bourgeois individual who is having trouble planning a trip to the shores of the United States. For again, a full stomach and a secure roof for the masses is of much greater import.
For the Christian readers, Christ will not say, “When I wanted a new car, you gave me credit for one.” No, He will say “When I was hungry you fed me, naked clothed me…” And this is what the Bolivarian Revolution is concretely guaranteeing and implementing. Indeed, it is the radicalism of true Christianity and the radicalism of a concrete socialist model that provokes such despair and anguish among the elite.
What we hear are the ghoulish screams of a class that recognizes it is being uprooted in Venezuela. Uprooted by democracy that has been elected over and over. It has won referendums on the peoples’ constitution, elections – and recall elections – and indeed it has won the intangible respect and support of the masses. Certainly, the support of the masses is unquestioned as even the opposition – save for the most extremist groups led by the terrorist jackals such as Maria Machado and Leopoldo Lopez – recognizes that the rhetoric of the Revolution cannot be displaced by them and even certain policies would require continuance if the opposition came to power. Yet this too is a clever ruse intended to deceive the masses into thinking that the opposition has a modicum of concern for them. This being an opposition that was once the ruling elite that provided for easy credit for the upper class. An opposition that was once the ruling elite that provided for vacations to the United States. And that provided for the denigration and subjugation of the working class and indigenous.One that continues such denigration through the private media.
Perhaps the real issue for the class that Catire represents is seen in one of one his paragraphs that begins: “Since the time Chavez allowed impunity for the masses…” Search for another article from Catire’s class and they will say that there is not impunity for the masses but rather they are subjugated to a police state. So which is it? The bourgeois class cynically uses “the masses”. At times “the masses” are a group to be a rhetorical member of when this can derive sympathy to one’s individual state. Or “the masses” are used and held up as being subjugated by the Revolution to provoke anger towards the Revolution. Or, “the masses” are castigated as unwashed hordes who roam with “impunity”. Perhaps though, this complaint of “impunity for the masses” – whatever this means – is indeed the crux of the problem for the bourgeois classes in Venezuela. The masses now are ascendant. Byt as we know, centuries of dominance do not die hard…anywhere. Venezuela is no different.
Perhaps it is this rising of the masses – this “impunity”- that provokes such howls among Catire’s class. It is not a personal attack on Catire when I speak of howling and use the previous phrase of “ghoulish screams”. Catire, it appears, is a product of his class prejudices. It is significantly “bigger” than Catire. It is a class issue and one that cannot be seen as anything else. Co-optation of the working class for the purpose of destroying the Revolution of the working class is beyond the pale. The previous ruling class never was concerned with the working class. It was a ruling class based upon the immanently required exploitation of the masses and denigration of the Afro-descendant and indigenous population. This previous ruling class never did care about the working class. It never did and it still doesn’t and it never will.
The Revolution marches on as the industrial and urban working class, allied with revolutionary peasants, will not cede its power. This Revolution is one of eminent love of the people and of humanity and because of this it is one that is unafraid of guaranteeing this love through active defense. A person loves their family and will defend their family against attacks – militantly, if required. And so it is seen in the Revolution that began with Simon Bolivar and is found concretely and potently in the present Revolution, the democratic and mass-based Revolution of the working class and revolutionary peasants. Perhaps this is the “impunity for the masses” that Catire claims.
Now, in fairness, Catire does not speak of this as the “impunity” he decries. It is, apparently, “impunity” from being arrested for urinating in public – the highest form of criminality for a society that operates on the bourgeois respectability lifestyle. Did Catire or his class allies ever ask why someone needed to urinate in public in the pre-Chavez era? Perhaps the person had no indoor plumbing in their Caracas shantytown. Perhaps? But no, impunity is the lack of policing of poverty’s natural results.
The complaint made of “impunity” is that “armed groups of civilians that claim to protect areas roam the streets of the barrios” to “impose social control” – as if this is not what Catire himself is calling for when complaining about a lack of social control in the barrios that he himself – nor his class allies – live in. Again, the masses and working class are cynically considered by the bourgeois when it serves the interests of attacking the Revolution.
One question I often pose and have yet to be provided with an answer is simple. If the problem with the Revolution is truly the precarious nature of the lives of the masses – the masses who allegedly suffer from the impunity provided by the Revolution for “armed gangs” – then why have they not rejected the Revolution en masse? Why have they not voted against the Revolution en masse as would be expected? Well, fear of course. So it would be said by those ruling class protectors of the working class. “The masses fear voting against the Chavista regime because they will be persecuted.” Yet the barrios and the working class neighborhoods have not voted exclusively for the Revolution. They do not have guns to their heads to vote for the ruling Grand Patriotic Pole alliance that is led by President Maduro of the PSUV. They may vote as they choose. And they do. And overwhelming. For the Revolution. If arrest and persecution for voting against the Revolution was a reality – as is often claimed – why then are the jails not at overflowing with those who did not vote? Why are there so many roaming the streets and standing in lines for food if they are all denied social rights and freedom and are being imprisoned like slaves for voting against the Revolution or not voting at all? Because the Revolution is not doing this. The masses are freely voting. And they are voting again and again for the Revolution- a Revolution of the people.
We have a class of people such as Catire who, even after admitting to “working with a private foreign client”, will turn around and claim they represent the masses. It is fine, Catire…do not bat an eyelash as you admit you work for foreigners. Foreign does not mean bad. I recognize that. But let me ask you, simply, what is the repression in the fact you cannot go to the beach or the mountains or allegedly “anywhere” on the weekend as you would desire on your non-foreign client paid salary? Ask how it sounds when the masses enjoy local entertainment with their families and a lack of freedom is considered the inability to go “anywhere” any weekend. What is criminal about the fact that perhaps every weekend you cannot go to the beach or mountain? Is it a human right to escape your neighborhood and community to go to the beach and mountains in a new car bought from easy credit? But let the Revolution die so a bourgeois upper class elite can have unlimited forays to the beaches while the masses go hungry in their shanties. This, my friends, is freedom. This, my friends, is why the Revolution must die! Je suis bourgeoisie!
This is the “national disaster” spoken of – a disaster with complaints of civilians “watching” their neighbors for signs of political malfeasance against the Revolution. It is easy to complain of the masses taking power and guaranteeing that actual destabilization and attacks – both political, economic and physical – against the masses and its infrastructure do not come to fruition. It is easy when you are not part of the masses. It is easy when this is done as a plea for sympathy from one’s class allies. But the masses of the working class, the elderly previously discarded, and the indigenous previously killed with impunity do not really care at this point. Centuries of oppression and attacks and genocide and denigration and dehumanization, simply put, are of much greater consequence than having a bourgeois businessman or corrupted union ally being “watched” by the masses. Centuries of oppression are not overturned with a tea party.
Oppression is still being battled and attacks from without are still present. They have not ended and have merely escalated both overtly and covertly. What is to be done, Catire? Lay down and roll out the red carpet? Allow the diminished power of the elite to return and rule for another three centuries with the force of the police, military, politicians, economic leaders and church once more monopolized by the capitalist minority? Remember, centuries of oppression are not overturned with a tea party.
There is a cry for political rights – a cry for a return to those halcyon days of the 1970s or perhaps the 1980s when The Caracazo and its massacre of the working class occurred. The days pre-Chavez and pre-socialism. Bourgeois political rights for the elite. Bourgeois political rights that are neutered “rights” when the masses have no input. For what are political rights when the working class and indigenous have no say? When the majority are beholden to the minority elite of capitalism and its favored bourgeois class, what are “political rights” but merely code for “exclusion of the people”? This is not what the Revolution allows and not what the people, through their community collectives and national leadership, will allow. Times have changed and the right to dignity and food and housing and education and humanity will not be reversed.
This is not an attack on an individual, but if one cares to speak of the individual, we can certainly speak of the millions of individuals in Venezuela who are in full support of the Revolution and the actions being undertaken; actions which, at times, are criticized for having been too conciliatory with the opposition. Imagine – the bourgeois has a force from the people that looks for even more radical and sectarian actions than the PSUV has undertaken at this point in the Revolution. Democracy is not what the opposition wants. Indeed, it is the antithesis of what the opposition wants as it cynically calls for a return to democratic principles that never existed in the days before the Bolivarian Revolution.
Yes Catire, let us not stand in the way of La Salida. Let us allow the democratic order be toppled in a putsch since the elections do not elect the former ruling class. For the sake of democracy. Let the children of the barrios be forgotten and criminalized again. For the sake of democracy. For the sake of democracy let the the women of Venezuela once more be relegated to a subservient role. Let the indigenous be murdered by death squads. For the sake of democracy. For your class, let the workers be entitled to nothing, but let your class have easy access to credit. Let the repression of The Caracazo return – for the sake of democracy. So wealthy families can travel to the ocean and the mountains and the United States. The spoliation of the masses is needed for the spoils to accrue to the ruling class.
The former ruling class is diminished and has transferred – in part – to the workers and peasants. But even this partial transfer is too much for the bourgeoisie and capitalists. The dignity of the workers and peasants was the first step in the process and it has created a deluge in which this new class-conscious and politically-militated group has stated defiantly that the existential and humanistic needs of the millions will take precedence over the “right” to luxuries for the few. These needs of the people will be defended. They will be defended militantly and unceasingly for there will not be a return to the oppression of the past. A new car does not compare to food in a child’s stomach. A beach vacation does not compare to universal health care. Attempts to defeat or repress this storm of justice, this transition of ruling class power to a new ruling class known as “the masses” will be met militantly and forcefully – barrio to barrio, workplace to workplace, town to town and city to city.
The people have spoken and will not bite their tongue or restrain their economic and political power again. Centuries of oppression are crumbling. Centuries of denigration are over.
Yes Catire, class privileges are being lost. Nothing personal.
A new day has dawned.
Andrew Kahn lives in New York City. Unabashed Bolivarian socialist. A pharmacist by degree, a rebel by decision, he blogs at http://akahnnyc.blogspot.com/