[OPE-L] good article on caracas meeting (Miguel Urbano)

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue Dec 14 2004 - 09:58:32 EST

Worldwide conference of intellectuals and artists "In Defense of the
Humanity" (Caracas, 1-5/Ten/2004) New challenges of the Bolivarian

By Miguel Urbano Rodrigues

President Chávez was a constant presence in the conference. During the
first week of December, Caracas was headquarters of an event with
characteristics never before seen on the planet. Some 340
intellectuals and artists from more than 52 countries gathered in the
Venezuelan capital to debate problems and threats tied inseparably to
the survival of humanity itself.

The Caracas Appeal clearly expresses the spirit of this World-wide
Meeting of representatives of the intelligentsia in Defense of the
Humanity. In it, men and women of very different cultures coincided in
moving "to the necessity to construct to a wall of resistance to
confront the attempt at this time to impose domination worldwide."

More expressive of the significance of the event than the decisions
taken was the atmosphere of permanent combativeness of the conference,
marked by enthusiastic solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.

It is no exaggeration to affirm that the initiative is a sign of the
radicalization of the process of deep transformations in the path
making Venezuela the showcase for a class struggle that the world has
not known since the Russian Revolution of 1917.

"Tomorrow can be too late"

This phrase of Fidel [Castro], repeated by Hugo Chávez in the closing
speech of the Meeting, powered the two central ideas running through
the President's speeches during the conference.

When he repeatedly announced the radicalization of the Revolution, the
leader of this Revolution left a clear impression that his people will
face enormous challenges and that only by advancing and not
withdrawing will they be able to defend and deepen the gains they
already realized. Chávez is conscious that a confrontation with
imperialism is inevitable.

The rupture with the dominant system - he affirmed this conclusion
with enormous clarity - will demand enormous sacrifices and great
firmness from the people.

In the dialog that he kept up with the foreign delegations in the
Theater Tereza Carreńo - an amphitheater with 2,500 seats - he used
the questions asked to illuminate his initial speech on the two-sided
contradiction of revolution and coup, with answers that gradually gave
color and form to another speech, complementary to the first, in which
he inserted information, projects and the constant repetition of
examples to produce a moving image of the Revolution.

He transmitted everything spontaneously and directly. Chávez is an
exceptional communicator. His torrential oratorical skills contrast,
however, with those of the traditional populist leaders in whose
harangues the rhetoric hides lack of content.

The words the Venezuelan leader directed to the intellectuals present
at the conference had been thought over carefully and were used to
carry ideological messages.

He evaluated the risks of his choice as he repeatedly insisted that
the Bolivarian Revolution is more than a national revolution because,
faced with imperialism's hostility, it will be able to survive only if
it can break through its isolation and assume the shape of a
revolution that all of progressive humanity is ready to defend. In
other words, international solidarity has become not only vital, but a
factor in its very survival.

The complexity of the challenge launched by Chávez in the Caracas
Meeting is apparent in some of the "suggestions" he formulated. When
defending the creation of a Latin American Central bank and a Latin
American Monetary Fund and insisting for the foundation of the
Petrosul - an enterprise that would group together the Venezuelan
PDVSA, the Mexican PEMEX, Brazilian Petrobras and the Argentine state
petroleum company - Chávez did not limit himself to reaffirming his
refusal to allow imperialist domination of his country. He went much
further because his proposals make the decision to internationalize
the Bolivarian Revolution transparent.

Obviously the concretion of these proposals is not, for now, possible.
Any of them would run up against insurmountable obstacles. But their
importance should not be underestimated.

El Nacional and El Universal, the oligarchy's two great daily
newspapers, had not dedicated one line to the World-wide Meeting of
Intellectuals - which is enlightening regarding their concept of
democracy and the sharing of information - but the President's
declarations were immediately interpreted in Washington as an
intolerable gesture, whose content is subversive.

Chávez did not mince words. He said he considers FTAA [Free Trade
Association of the Americas] an imperialist project to recolonize
Latin America. He defended a concept of Latin American integration
that makes him appear to the eyes of the White House as a satanic
revolutionary, as a second Fidel Castro.

Unrestricted solidarity with Cuba would be enough to alarm Washington,
but he assumes the deepening of the collaboration between the two
countries in multiple areas with pride. Chávez does not hide that he
walks shoulder to shoulder with "the sister republic."

Writers and political scientists who visited Venezuela for the first
time were impressed by the continual use of history in Chavez's
speech. The quotations from [Simon] Bolivar, the references to the
hero helped convey what it means today to be Bolivarian. The modernity
of Bolivar as revolutionary was made apparent through appropriate
parallels between situations of the past and the choices the
Revolution faces today.

When facing difficulties that at first appear insurmountable, Chávez
is inspired by the Liberator. Contemplating the immediate future he
warns: "what we have done is very little; the main work lies ahead."

Often the living episodes of the revolutionary process served to
illuminate the people's heroism. The audience was moved when,
describing the days of the petroleum company lock out, with the
country almost paralyzed, without gasoline and deprived of
necessities, he told of his meeting with a very poor family in a
deteriorated neighborhood. A woman, grabbing his arm, dragged him to
the shanty where she lived. Chávez could sense they were cooking
something in a pan. He took off the cover and he saw that it was a
piece of wood. The woman commented: "we shall eat what remains of my
bed". And added: "Stay calm, we'll make it. Resist, Chavez!"

The contemporary history of Latin America, Europe, the Middle East
under attack by imperialism, were ideological themes of his speech.

It was not without surprise that many of the foreign participants had
followed his vindication of the worker-peasant alliance in the country
and Latin America. A bigger surprise still when, recalling the meeting
he had with the leaders of Islamic countries, he exhorted the peoples
of Latin America to rise up in solidarity with the Iranians and
Syrians, if these peoples are the targets of new imperialist

In the following day, speaking in the closing of the conference,
Chávez offered another speech, this one less elaborate and even more
radical. Taking up again the idea of deepening the Revolution, he
emphasized that it will be entering a new phase. It would be
prolonged. He presented socialism as the only alternative to
neoliberalism, the system of imperial domination that threatens

The alternative socialism or barbarism that Rosa Luxemburg formulated
a half-century ago, appears to be quite current, reactivated for the
development of history today.

But will the moment Chávez chose for the first time to make the
socialist option transparent an adequate one?


Throughout the last half century I followed revolutions and
counterrevolutions that had marked the route of Latin America. With
the exception of Cuba, I today remember no relation anywhere similar
to that existing in Venezuela between a governor and the people who
supports him. The confidence of the masses in the leader is total,
limitless. The foreign intellectuals were tremendously impressed, both
by the applause he received at the conference and by their contacts
with poor inhabitants during visits to communities in the capital and
the provinces.

But dependence on the leader is also a weakness of the revolution.
Because all revolution is a molecular process, that if develops in an
atmosphere of class struggle, a process whose duration is unforeseen,
it demands a revolutionary organization prepared for a prolonged
struggle. Such organization, however, does not yet exist in Venezuela.
The massive participation of the people, taking the role of subject of
history, brought about at decisive moments the defeat of the united
force of the domestic rightwing and imperialism. But, at a moment
where in which he announces a new phase, in which the leader
radicalizes his position and connects the survival of the
revolutionary process with breaking out of isolation, admitting that
the Bolivarian Revolution is assuming the dimension of a continental
challenge to the imperialism - the absence of a revolutionary
structured organization is impossible to hide. Neither the Movement V
Republic, nor the Bolivarian Circles, nor the current Patrols had been
able to play the role of mobilizer and constructor of the
revolutionary organization demanded by the historical situation.

The great unknown persists. Until what point will it be possible to
radically transform Venezuelan society on an institutional level while
important sectors of state power are not controlled for the Government?

In this context the attitude of the Armed Forces takes on a
fundamental importance. Chávez expresses a reality when he affirms
that the Bolivarian Revolution, unlike the Chilean, is not an unarmed

The great majority of the officer corps supports the process of
change. This does not mean, however, that the Army corresponds to the
ideal defined by Bolivar: "the armed people."

A revolutionary officer, with high responsibilities, confided to me:
"After the defeat of the coup [of April 2002], the parade to the Plaza
of France (Altamira) [1] of opposition officers was a gift from
heaven, because it allowed a purging of what remained of the rot
inside the Army."

The opinion indicates some lack of experience. History demonstrates
that the seeds of the counterrevolution germinate within revolutions,
driven by their own dynamics.

More than a hundred of superior officers, including many generals and
admirals, had been purged after the April 11 coup. But an uncountable
number of officers who did not inspire confidence - in some way
passive accomplices of the fascist conspiracy - remained in the ranks.
Many had been transferred to garrisons far away from Caracas, above
all near the explosive border with Colombia. It will not have been a
happy choice.

This border is real tinder box. Gathered there are reactionary dealers
and landlords, drug dealers and foreign adventurers. The Colombian
paramilitary death squads do everything, under the cover of the
neofascist Alvaro Uribe government, to create an atmosphere of
permanent tension in the region. Some of the incidents occurred there
serve as a warning. It is undeniable that the virus transmitted by the
human trash of that zone can contaminate others.

This is one problem among many. But don't underestimate it.

The new phase of the Revolution, announced by Chavez, demands that the
people's participation be raised to a higher level. Their availability
for struggle in crisis situations is inadequate for a permanent and
clear revolutionary response to the ambitious and challenging
transformation sketched by the President.

Everything indicates that the radicalization of the Bolivarian
process, announced by Hugo Chávez in the Worldwide Conference of
Caracas, and reaffirmed in the Bolivarian Congress of the Peoples,
will make 2005 a decisive year for the destination of the revolution
now underway in the native land of Simón Bolivar.

[1] Altamira, in Caracas, is the neighborhood where the ruling class
for months organized gathering with military officers present,
assemblies where the government was the target of constant provocations.

This article can be found in <http://resistir.info/>http://resistir.info/. 

Michael A. Lebowitz

Professor Emeritus

Economics Department

Simon Fraser University

Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at

Residencias Anauco Suites

Departamento 601

Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1

Caracas, Venezuela

(58-212) 573-4111

fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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