[OPE-L] Antonio Gramsci and Venezuela

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Jun 05 2007 - 10:23:28 EDT

via Mike L.

Hundreds of Thousands March in Support of Chavez
Chavez Dismisses International Disapproval of
Venezuela's Media Policy Monday, Jun 04, 2007

By: Gregory Wilpert – Venezuelanalysis.com

President Chavez addresses the crowd gathered on
Avenida bolivar. Credit: Prensa Presidencial

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Chavez
demonstrate in favor of the government's decision
to not renew RCTV's broadcast license . Credit: Prensa Presidencial

As several hundred thousand Chavez supporters
rallied in Venezuela's largest avenue on
Saturday, President Chavez rejected all
international interference with his decision not
to renew a television station's broadcast
license. Referring to the Marxist theorist
Antonio Gramsci, Chavez also spoke at length
about how private media maintains a cultural hegemony that must be broken.

"Go to hell, representatives of the global
oligarchy, we are a free country!" said Chavez to
wild applause, once marchers reached the Avenida
Bolivar in the center of Caracas. The
demonstration converged on the avenue from two
starting points, one in the east of the city and
the other towards the city's south. Unofficial
estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from 300,000 to 500,000.

Chavez said he did not care that the world media
was presenting him as a new Hitler or Mussolini.
"What I do care about," said Chavez, "is the
sovereignty of the Venezuelan homeland."

"The international elite are worried, they fear
that the example of Venezuela will extend to
other countries where they believe that they are
the masters of everything," continued Chavez
during his relatively short one and a half hour
speech. Every destabilization plan, warned
Chavez, will be "responded with a new revolutionary offensive."

Chavez also said it was sad that university
students have been demonstrating in support of
RCTV. "It continues to be sad that some students
take to the streets – to defend what? … On whose
side will they place themselves, on the side of
the people or of the oligarchy, of the homeland
or of the North American empire?" adding that the
vast majority of students are on the side of the
people. The images of student protests are just
part of a "giant manipulation, a gross media spectacle."

For Chavez, what is happening in Venezuela is
very similar to what the U.S. has helped organize
in eastern European countries, in the so-called
"colored revolutions," such as in Ukraine, where
demonstrators succeeded in overthrowing the government.

Chavez also reminded his supporters that his
reelection on December 3rd was merely the
beginning of a new phase in his presidency, of
creating socialism and that so far much had been
achieved. Chavez mentioned that the
"re-nationalization" of the oil industry had been
finalized and that the new Unified Socialist
Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been launched and
announced that until now 4,735,000 Venezuelans
have been registered as applicants to be activists in the new party.

Antonio Gramsci as Key for Understanding Events in Venezuela

The thought of the Marxist theorist Antonio
Gramsci is fundamental, according to Chavez, for
making sense of what is happening in Venezuela
today. "I want to refer to the thought of
Gramsci, to use his ideas, using the light of his
thought, every day we understand better what is
happening here today in Venezuela."

Thus Chavez launched into one his longest and
most detailed talks on the thought of Gramsci,
explaining Gamsci's concept of "historical
blocs," in which a particular class manages to
acquire hegemony that is expressed in structures
and super-structures. The super-structure,
explained Chavez, consists of two levels, of the
institutions of the state and of the civil
society. The civil society, according to Chavez's
explanation of Gramsci, consists of economic and
private institutions, through which the dominant class spreads its ideology.

The conflict in Venezuela can thus be understood
as one between the institutions of the state,
which used to be controlled by this civil
society, but no longer is, and the old civil
society. To this old civil society, according to
Gramsci, belong the Catholic Church hierarchy,
the mass media, and the education system as the
principal institutions. The dominant classes use
these institutions to disseminate their ideologies, explained Chavez.

This ideology of the dominant classes is
disseminated in a variety of levels of
abstraction, with philosophy being the most
abstract. Below this level are belief systems
such a neo-liberalism, the free market, the
thesis of freedom of expression, of bourgeois
democracy, of division of powers, representation
as foundation of democracy. These are "Big lies!"
exclaimed Chavez, with which for over a 100 years hegemony has been

On a third level is common sense, which is "the
product of being bathed in the dominant
philosophy and of the ideology in different
forms, via soap operas, movies, songs, propaganda, billboards…" said Chavez.

The fourth level is "folklore," whereby people
simply express a preference as a result of manipulation, without knowing why.

According to Chavez, the Bolivarian movement has
been "liberating" the state, including the
judiciary, the legislature, the state-owned
enterprises, from the control of this hegemonic "bourgeois civil society."

Now this civil society is using its last
remaining resources to fight for power, the
Church, the mass media, and the universities.
"From there is the importance of understanding
the layout of the battle," said Chavez.

Chavez also clarified that Venezuela's oligarchy
could live with the Bolivarian Revolution,
because "we have no plan to eliminate the
oligarchy, Venezuela's bourgeoisie. We have
demonstrated this sufficiently in over eight years," said Chavez.

"But, if the oligarchy does not understand this,
if it does not accept the call to peace, to live
with us, that the great revolutionary majority is
making, if the Venezuelan bourgeoisie continues
to desperately assault, using the refuges it has
remaining, well then the Venezuelan bourgeoisie
will continue to lose, one by one, the refuges it
has remaining," declared Chavez.

Directed to Venezuela's bourgeoisie, Chavez said,
"We respect you as Venezuelans, you [should]
respect Venezuela, respect the homeland, respect
our constitution, respect our laws. If you do
not, you will regret it, if you do not, we will
make you obey Venezuela's laws."

The gathered crowd chanted, "This is how one governs!"

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Director, Programme in 'Transformative Practice and Human Development'
Centro Internacional Miranda, P.H.
Residencias Anauco Suites, Parque Central, final Av. Bolivar
Caracas, Venezuela
fax: 0212 5768274/0212 5777231

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