Manifesto of solidarity with Venezuelan Anarchists and Social Movements
One disturbing aspect of the article below are the disputes within Venezuelas small anarchist movement. There are, as I pointed out on a number of occasions in this blog, anarchist groups which give a certain amount of critical support to the Bolivarian Revolution. El Libertario is highly critical of the Chavistas. This article denounces El Libertario's anarchist opponents as “ fictitious groups paid for by the state” and considers them an aspect of Chavista repression against themselves. The critically pro-Bolivarian anarchists in turn call them “liberals” , “anti-working class tools of the right” etc. To me this all smacks of sectarianism and hence any articles coming out of the Venezuelan anarchist milieu have to be taken with a grain of salt. (1)
The newspaper Tierra y Libertad, mouthpiece of the Iberian Anarchist Federation, published in edition 227 of June 2007 this manifesto of the International of Anarchist Federations (IAF-IFA; www.iaf-ifa.org) in support of those who in Venezuela today confront the bureaucratic capitalist project of the Chavez government as well as their social democrat and right wing opponents.
In the first three months of 2007, 23 popular demonstrations were repressed by the Venezuelan government and 99 activists were detained. This fact speaks of the growing unease as well as the criminalization of social struggle in this Latin-American country, in a reality masked by the propaganda and mystification of a regime that paints itself as the vanguard of ‘21st Century socialism’ with the support of different groupings and persons associated with the authoritarian left throughout the world.
However, those who are concerned with the real situation of the oppressed and exploited in Venezuela know the inconsistencies and contradictions of the populist government led by the militarist Hugo Chavez. Far from structurally advancing the reduction of inequalities and the increase of possibilities of social development, the government in power in Caracas continues to maintain one of the most unjust systems of distribution of wealth in the continent, further deepening the role assigned to the country by economic globalization as a secure and trustworthy provider of energy to the global market, with trans-national oil corporations as pampered partners and principal beneficiaries of the actions of the Venezuelan state. After eight and a half years of a government relying on high oil prices with the highest financial income in national history, the social results of Chavez’s politics are mediocre, the most notable being the apparition of a new parasitic bourgeoisie of the client state, the ‘bolivarian bourgeoisie’.
According to recent government reports and statistics, over 5 million workers, 46.5% of the labour force remain in the informal sector of the economy, 43% of workers receive a salary under the legal minimum wage, a little less than 200 dollars per month, 2.5 million people lack suitable housing, 18% of the population suffer malnutrition, the network of public hospitals displays needs and limitations of every type, 90% of the indigenous population live in poverty, more than 400 people die violently each year in prison and there is an average of 15 people assassinated every month by repressive organs of the state.
The Venezuelan government has maintained over the last five years an inter-class dispute with certain traditional sectors of the local bourgeoisie which, in the midst of a strong political-electoral polarization, has allowed the division, immobilization, and recuperation of the country’s social movements. Any critic of the corrupt, inefficient and wasteful official bureaucracy would immediately qualify it as being ‘at the service of imperialism’, and with the excuse of confronting possible ‘coup’s and ‘reactionary provocations’, they have announced diverse laws that penalize with greater vigour street actions and strikes in the basic state industries. These are part of legal mechanisms that since 2006 have been used against popular mobilizations which, trying to recuperate their own demands, demonstrate every week for the right to personal security, decent housing, work and decent working conditions. The response of the government has been with tear gas grenades, gunshots and arrests.
Faced with the deceitful polarization experienced in this country, and specifically as a response to the presidential mandate to dissolve previously existing parties and groupings in order to integrate them in to the single party of Chavism, with the acronym PSUV, diverse Venezuelan organisations are trying to create autonomous spaces for the social movements. Amongst these are the efforts of the anarchists who from separate initiatives, such as the publication El Libertario (www.nodo50.org/ellibertario) are building an alternative that is as removed from the social democrat and right wing opposition as it is from the capitalism of the Bolivarian state. This effort by the anarchists to construct alternatives and routes that are consistently autonomous implies risks: El Libertario, for example, must face a systematic campaign of recriminations and disrepute from fictitious groups paid for by the state, thus there is a growing harassment of anti-authoritarian activism.
This manifesto wishes to remind our libertarian brothers and sisters inside Venezuela, as well as the various grass roots autonomous organisations that they have our appreciation, support and solidarity. Our anarchist organisations and initiatives will denounce, in every way they can, the incoherence and demagoguery hidden behind the alias of the ‘bolivarian revolution’, activating the necessary support mechanisms in response to every government attack against the concrete aspirations of social justice and liberty of the Venezuelan people.
1. Just how vicious sectarianism can be within the anarchist movement can be shown by the splits within the Spanish CNT back in the 1980's. The old guard attacked the group which later became the CGT as “traitors,” “anti-anarchist” and the two groups physically attacked each other. In the 1990's, the minority split-off from the French anarcho-syndicalist CNT slandered the majority as “fascists”. The International Workers Association (AIT) to which the Spanish CNT belongs, forbids its members from attending conferences sponsored by non-AIT anarcho-syndicalist unions. The AIT is notorious for its sectarianism. It is believed that El Libertario has some connection to the AIT. I should point out that only a minority of anarchists engage in this sort of thing and that most try to work together.