An interview with Gonzalo Gómez (Marea Socialista / Socialist Tide) by Susan Spronk and Jeffery R. Webber, published on The Bullet, August 17, 2012.
In Caracas, we caught up with Gonzalo Gómez, a founder of the radical website aporrea.org and militant in the Trotskyist organization, Marea Socialista. In this interview, Gonzalo describes his own path to militancy, the different phases of the Bolivarian process, and the dangers of bureaucracy, the “boli-bourgeoisie,” and the stultifying internal life of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV). He also stresses the centrality of the creativity and dynamism of social movements from below, the complexities of workers’ control, and the dynamics of the current conjuncture prior to the October 7, 2012 general elections (SS and JRW) … //
… SS and JRW: What was the importance of the failed coup d’état of April 11-13, 2002 to the development of the left?
- GG: The struggle that began in 2002, when activists and organizers took the initiative to challenge the coup d’état that occurred in April of that year, marks the beginning of a new phase of struggle. At that time, we formed the Asamblea Popular Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Popular Assembly). It was a short-lived political space that existed only until the second wave of counter-revolutionary reaction, that is, the bosses’ lockout and sabotage in the oil sector in 2002-03.
- The assembly played an important role in helping to foment the resistance against the coup, because the government had not called on the people to defend the process against the coup, but rather had bet all of its cards on trying to manage the balance of forces internal to the state and the armed forces. This was, perhaps, a tactic of the government to avoid a bloodbath in the streets. But we in the assembly concluded that the decision to not mobilize the people could mean an even bigger bloodbath, that the presence of the people in the streets was necessary.
- We helped to organize this initiative and were involved in the confrontations with the military police in the streets, in which a number of people were killed. But we believe these actions prevented the original plans of the right from taking hold. The right wanted to carry out a coup disguised as something else, to make it seem as if it was a popular mobilization against Chávez. The right called on the mobilization of the upper middle class and the wealthiest Venezuelans to mobilize in the streets, a tactic that was extremely well-managed by the private media.
- The armed forces and the police were obviously behind these actions, but the idea was to give the impression to the world that the people themselves were overthrowing Chávez, that they were mobilizing and going to the presidential palace in Miraflores to carry out a democratic revolution, that this was a recovery of peoples’ power that had been taken away by a dictatorship. This was the plan that the right had developed.
- The resistance of military forces loyal to Chávez around Miraflores [Presidential palace], together with the presence of pro-Chávez popular mobilizations in the streets, revealed the true nature of this conspiracy … //
… SS and JRW: What are the most dynamic social forces and popular movements in the current conjuncture?
- GG: In the labour movement, for example, there are the two labour confederations, the UNT and the CSBT, as I mentioned. The UNT developed with a more autonomous character, with a more critical and combative political orientation, but it was beginning to deflate. More and more unions and federations of unions were beginning to affiliate with the CSBT, which has always been more subordinate to the apparatus of the government, and which does not have the perspective of struggle that it needs to have, from my point of view.
- We have to fight against the right wing in Venezuela and against imperialism, but we also have to fight within the apparatus of the bourgeois state precisely to destroy the apparatus of the bourgeois state to be able to implement real workers’ and popular power. And this implies confronting the bureaucracy regularly in the decisions they make that favour the bosses or are anti-worker and anti-popular in character, above and beyond the progressive reforms called for and introduced by Chávez.
- If there is no struggle, if there is no tension, the bureaucratic apparatus will tend to impose itself over the popular interests. In order to prevent this we need to redouble the popular forces fighting against this tendency, and they need to be taken into account by the government.
- Next, of course, there is the peasant movement. There is the Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora (Revolutionary Current Bolívar and Zamora, CRBZ), which is a powerful, organized peasant movement. They’ve carried out important mobilizations and are involved in different collective agricultural projects and initiatives; they’ve also had experience with the establishment of communal cities. There’s another important peasant movement that’s called Jirajara. Braulio Álvarez, a national assembly deputy, is the leader of this peasant movement.
- Then there is the Movimiento de Pobladores (Movement of the Urban Poor, MP), which has been involved in the struggle for renters’ interests, and in the struggle for gaining title to squatted lands in the city, among other initiatives. I’ve also mentioned ANMCLA, but in the current moment there is also the Comando Nacional de Comunicación Popular – Misión 7 de Octubre (National Command of Popular Communication – Mission October 7, CNCP-7O), which groups together all of the alternative media, including those of ANMCLA.
- There are other newer organizations that have emerged as well – a novelty in the Venezuelan process is the defence of the rights of women, the field of feminism. The Alianza Feminista (Feminist Alliance), Faldas en la Revolución (Skirts in Revolution), are important organizations, as is La Alianza Sexo-Género Diversa Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Alliance of Sex-Gender Diversity, ASGDRe), which for the first time has brought into the revolutionary camp the movement of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people. They are now actively participating in the popular movement.
- There are other notable organizations that are in processes of recuperation. One example is the Bolivarian Circles. Another is the Frente Socialista de Profesionales y Técnicos (Socialist Front of Professionals and Technicians, FSPT), which has organized several gatherings of professionals and technicians from across the entire country. Within the FSPT you have smaller groupings like the Frente Nacional de Abogados Bolivarianos (National Front of Bolivarian Lawyers, FNAB).
- There are a number of nation-wide, massive organizations, clearly identifiable, that express the interests of specific sectors and which could reinvigorate the program of the President, the program of the government, with their own proposals, and they have their criticisms of the process which need to be taken into account.
- If these various national movements were able to articulate themselves clearly, and act in concert with the figure of Chávez, but with the capacity to act with or without the presence of Chávez, this would allow for the political advancement of this revolutionary process.
- This would include thinking seriously about this entire period of uncertainty, inquietude, and risk that we’ve been living through with Chávez’s illness, when he was undergoing operations for cancer and so on. Now it seems as though he has recovered, but still. We don’t know what will happen in the future…
- So there are movements in this country, with the characteristics that social movements have here in Venezuela. If we compare ourselves to social movements in Europe that are very well organized, disciplined, and with clear structures and financing and so on – or at least historically, now with the indignados in Spain, some European movements look a little more like the movements we have in Venezuela.
- The movements in Venezuela are not like the historical movements in Europe, but they have a very high capacity for spontaneous responses, particularly in times of emergency – they produced the Caracazo of February 27, 1989, the response to the coup attempt on April 11-13, 2002, and were able to forge the civic-military alliance that exists with the Bolivarian revolution. These are not small achievements of our social movements – with their characteristics that some have called “tropical.” There are advantages and disadvantages to these characteristics. And in certain circumstances the advantages have been particularly clear.
SS and JRW: Can you comment on what has happened in Ciudad Guayana? When we were here two years ago this was one of the central political battles … //
… SS and JRW: It does seem as though the image of Chávez and the Bolivarian process suffered internationally on the left because of its lack of clarity on these issues regarding the Arab Spring of 2011.
- GG: There’s no doubt that there’s been a decline of enthusiasm and support for the Bolivarian process on the European left; I’ve noticed this. It’s not that they have stopped supporting the Bolivarian process, because they continue supporting it, but there has been a decline in support, enthusiasm, and confidence in the Bolivarian Revolution. Because the European social movements of the left are confounded by the fact that Chávez has relations with governments that are so distinct from the character of the Chávez government itself. It is also the case that the European social movements also have close ties with the populations of the Arab countries where these revolts are taking place because of patterns of immigration. There are many Tunisians and Egyptians in France, for example, and other European countries, and so these connections are well developed.
(full long interview text and Endnotes).
(Susan Spronk teaches international development at the University of Ottawa. She is a research associate with the Municipal Services Project and has published various articles on working-class formation and water politics in Latin America.
Jeffery R. Webber teaches politics and international relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Red October: Left Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia /Haymarket, 2012).
The collapsing US economy and the end of global dominance: Europe is on the ropes and has no money with which to subsidize Washington’s wars of hegemony, on Current Concerns, by Paul Craig Roberts, July 30, 2012;
Immanuel Kant and international relations of modern times, on Current Concerns, by Professor Dr habil. Vyacheslav Dashichev, Colonel General staff ret, July 30, 2012;
The collapse of the EU and the Russian-German condominium over the rest of Europe, on Current Concerns, by Prof. Dr. Albert A. Stahel, Institutes für strategischen Studien, July 23, 2012;
Le projet de Nouvel Ordre Mondial trébuche sur les réalités géopolitiques, dans Voltairenet.org, par Imad Fawzi Shueibi, 14 Août 2012.