How shall we put today’s revolutionary left in Venezuela into context? Is the left a movement of transformative action, or is it a simple ideological protocol that presupposes a pre-established discursive contract?
“Today the counter-revolutionary Right is reactivating itself,” according to long-time Venezuelan revolutionary Roland Denis, “taking advantage of the profound deterioration that this slow revolutionary process is suffering. Its reappearance and interlacing with ‘democratic civil society’ is a clear signal to the popular movement that we either convert this moment into a creative and reactivating crisis of the collective revolutionary will, or we bid farewell to this beautiful and traumatic history that we have built over the last 25 years.”
Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters.
Six years ago, the journalist Jacobo Rivero asked a 50-year-old black woman from La Vega what would happen if Chávez died. The Bolivarian process “is irreversible,” she told him, its roots are too deep to be easily torn asunder in the absence of el comandante.
The fundamental discursive success of Chavismo was to challenge the differences between the traditional parties and erect a new border ordering the loyalties of Venezuelan society, transforming a privileged minority into a political minority and the dispossessed majorities into a project for the construction of a “people” demanding representation for the entire community.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” When we got to La Piedrita, they already knew we were coming. If not for the phone call they received from a trusted comrade, then from the video cameras lining the perimeter of this revolutionary zone that jealously guards its autonomy from all governments, right or left.
On Monday night at least 7 people were killed, 61 injured, and many institutional buildings, including multiple public health clinics, were set ablaze by right-wing mobs all across Venezuela. These attacks were encouraged by Henrique Capriles’ call to action that reached a fiery pinnacle the day after his defeat in Sunday’s electoral race. His shouted to his followers to take to the streets and, “Take all of your hatred out, all your frustration, in the name of peace.”
Nicolas Maduro has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Maduro gave a victory speech immediately after, while Capriles initially refused to recognize the results.
It is Tuesday, April 2nd; music and people fill the streets of Caracas. This is the official opening day of the campaign for Presidential elections in Venezuela, due to take place on April 14th after the death of Hugo Chavez. The candidates, Nicolas Maduro, former bus driver, ex-Vice-President and the man Chavez personally named as his successor, and Henrique Capriles, the main opposition candidate who lost to Chavez last November, are both kicking off their tours of the country. But, as journalist Reinaldo Iturriza once told me, these are not “normal elections” that take place here in Venezuela. From the beginning, the political campaigns are vibrant, colorful and visible everywhere you turn.
Chavez not only rejected neo-liberalism. He put socialism back on the public agenda at a time when apologists for global capitalism were still claiming it was “the End of History” and when the defeatist left was insisting that we had to be “realistic” and “pragmatic,” to renounce anti-capitalism, and to limit ourselves to putting a “human face” on the capitalist system.