Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Soap opera provocation

Street protests in Venezuela for and against the closing down of a popular right-wing television channel are revealing the tensions in the country under the government of President Hugo Chavez. Radio Caracas Television, a private network, is due to go off the air this Sunday because the state is refusing to renew its licence. RCT, together with three other networks, backed the 2002 coup against Chavez, which temporarily saw him lose power. Although Chavez’s policies directed at helping the poor continue to earn him widespread support, many ordinary Venezuelans enjoy RCTs popular, if low-brow soaps and game shows and now find their loyalties divided. Re-elected with a huge majority last December, Chavez pledged to continue his strategy of redistributing Venezuela’s oil wealth to benefit the poor masses. His stance is supported strongly by Bolivian president Evo Morales. A coca-growers' union leader and Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Morales has nationalised oil and natural gas resources as part of his effort to redistribute wealth in South America's poorest country. ''The transnational corporations always provoke conflicts to accumulate capital, and the accumulation of capital in a few hands is no solution for humanity,'' Morales told a forum in Cochabamba yesterday. ''And so I have arrived at the conclusion that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity.''

Three weeks ago Venezuela withdrew from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These organisations have long been used by the major powers like the United States to steer countries in Latin America along monetarist, market capitalist lines. The IMF supported the failed 2002 coup. Chavez wants to set up a Bank of the South, backed by Venezuelan oil revenues, which would finance projects in South America. His government has just taken control of the four oilfields in the Orinoco belt which have been run by foreign companies - ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, Statoil and Total. Negotiations over compensation are ongoing. Over the last few years, the Chavez government has set out to free itself of US economic influence and encourage the formation of non-capitalist sectors in the Venezuelan economy by providing alternative forms of credit to encourage co-operatives. He has invested millions of dollars on social programmes inside Venezuela that have reduced poverty and increased access to education and healthcare. Chavez is working with governments to encourage them in similar economic strategies, stimulating a revolutionary movement by the workers and peasants not only in Venezuela but throughout Latin America.

At the same time, even bigger issues are posed if the movement is not to be undermined and subverted. Broadcasters like RCT, though backed by the United States and pro-capitalist forces, are stalking horses for the real enemy. The present conflict is being used as a provocation to rally people against the government by pointing to unsolved economic and social problems that bedevil Chavez’ experiment. Muzzling sections of the media will not get rid of its big-business sponsors, many of whom lie outside Venezuela, and will play into the hands of the government’s enemies at home and abroad. Having only a servile state-controlled media will do more harm than good. Within Venezuela itself, the existing capitalist state structures including the armed forces, must be dismantled. Unless they are, they are certain to be used as a force to destabilise and topple the Chavez government. That is the lesson of earlier mass revolutionary struggles on the continent, especially in Chile. The Venezuelan popular revolution has to be extended to the corporations and governments which service them on a global level. AWTW salutes and supports Chavez’ moves to challenge corporate interests in Latin America. Working for a non-capitalist alternative in Britain is the best support we can give and our conference on June 9, Turn the World Upside Down, is a step in that direction.

Corinna Lotz, AWTW secretary

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