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Interview with El Libertario (Venezuela – June 2009)

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* From Madrid the anarchist group Star, linked to the Iberian Federation of Anarchists Youths (Federación Ibérica de Juventudes Anarquistas-FIJA-), has raised questions whose answers will let us know today and in detail what is doing and saying the known Venezuelan anarchist newspaper.

- Anarchist group Star (GS) - Could you start talking about your project?

º El Libertario is a newspaper published since 1995 (56 issues from then to June-2009). We try to report on anarchist theory and practice in Latin America and the world, as well as support any libertarian aspect within the social movements we find in our field. We do not receive, nor do we want to receive, any subsidy from the State or other instance of hierarchical power. Our activity is 110% self-managed. This spokesman is based on the anti-authoritarian ideal of anarchism and is promoted by the Collective Editor of El Libertario, an affinity group open to participation and collaboration of people with libertarian principles and attitudes, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and non-dogmatism. The central criterion of affinity is to share the anarchist ideal for building a society based on direct democracy, social justice, self-management, mutual support and self-contract without the authoritarian imposition of the law or force; between other values. Apart from being a propaganda group, we try to promote the existence of a libertarian movement in our country, but for this we presupposes that there must be a number of grass-roots social movements, autonomous and belligerent, as a requisite for the expansion of libertarian ideas and practices in our environment. For that reason we linked to various grass-roots social organizations, accompanied them in their struggle against hierarchical power, and for the human rights. Also, some of us do research work and theoretical reflection. We also encourage tasks to promote a culture of self-management, such as audio-visual samples and talks, and the First Libertarian Book and Video Fair, scheduled for November 2009. Finally, to the extent of our affinities and possibilities, we get involved in campaigns like the one held last year for the 20 years of the slaughter in El Amparo. More details on us, how we act and what we think, in our web: www.nodo50.org/ellibertario (in Spanish, English & other languages), and in the print editions of the newspaper.

GS - What is your position on the so-called Bolivarian revolution?

º We understand that what happened in Venezuela since 1999 has been an unhappy mix of warlord’s foul-mouth and state capitalism, based on the abundance of oil revenues. Our analysis suggests that the so-called Bolivarian government is a continuation, not a rupture, of the crisis of representative democracy in Venezuela and its economic model based on energy exploitation. There has been a 'revolution' as our way of life has been dismantle in many ways, but what we see under construction clearly announced negative results for the exploited and oppressed, and therefore to allow its consolidation is to make things harder to change. The transformations the anarchists aim are very different from the direction this 'process' has taken. With more than 10 years at the helm, is full of authoritarianism, in shameful alliance with transnational capital (through partnership with joint ventures that control the oil reserves of the country), bureaucratically inefficient, structurally infected with corruption; with orientations, attitudes and characters that we can not endorse.

We have investigated, documented and reported about the role of Venezuela in the economic globalization, which is nothing more than provide in a safe, cheap and reliable way, energy resources to the world market. Like no one in the past, this government of nationalist and leftist rhetoric has been very effective to teach the society to accept his role of submission to the global oil business, and to thank slavishly the crumbs received while maintaining one of the most unfair distributions of wealth on the continent. Thus, to question the environmental and social effects of the exploitation of hydrocarbons and minerals have now become taboo and politically incorrect. The Bolivarian government has developed an impressive propaganda machine to sell the alleged benefits of their social policies, but the data and the reality show us that if there have been improvements in some dimensions and specific government programs, (excuse given by the State action to claim its purported legitimacy anywhere in the world), the situation of the people has not improved significantly despite having had in this decade the higher oil and tax revenues in the history of the country for a similar period; but they have served to elevate the “boliburguesía” (the new bourgeois created in Venezuela) growing at the expense of the official power. Much of this is shown in our publication, trying to cite sources and data from the government itself, and as an example of the worsening crisis from below note that Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the continent, being 14.000 deaths for this cause in the year 2008. This tells us about the extent of a climate of violence that reflects the disintegration of the Venezuelan society, a trend that would have been reversed, or at least content, if we had have experienced any change that would really benefit the people.

GS - We understand that the movement against the ruling party is not as homogeneous as the government proponents claim. What are the various trends currently fighting against the government? What is the relationship between those trends?

º Certainly it is false and self-interested the image that the Chavista propaganda presents the opposition, label it as a whole as a “terrorist right, lackey of the imperialism and controlled by the CIA”, because, although there may be a sector close to that image, the picture is quite more heterogeneous. There is the opposition heir of the dominant political model before 1999, with the old and weak parties AD (social-democratic, close to the Spanish PSOE) and COPEI (Christian-democrat, similar to PP), plus other formations whose ideological assignments are in similar lines, finding between them ex-sympathizers of the current government (such as MAS and PODEMOS parties) whose breaking with Chavez had more to do with unsatisfied power and bureaucratic desires than with significant ideological and political conflicts. This right wing & social-democrat opposition intent to (in the image of what the Chavistas do on their side) appear as the only possible choice, and reduce the country's problems to the political-electoral field, ‘cause their sole interest is to take the government to manage the oil income at their will. His propaganda strategy has been quite effective in attracting citizens' grass-roots initiatives after their leadership, selling their selves as a "lesser evil" in comparison to the threat of the ruling authoritarian government.

Moreover, there is a segment of the population identified as "ni-ni" (neither this nor that) by not agreeing with either the government or the opposition. This group represents the largest minority in the country in the electoral polls, so all the vote-seeking strategies are intended to appeal to the "ni-ni" with any of the competing bids.With its existence there is clear that, despite what it preaches the inter-bourgeois confrontation, the country is not mechanical divided between Chavistas and antichavistas. El Libertario has never identified himself as a "antichavista", because from 2002 we denounced the construction of a false polarization they build in order to undermine the autonomy of the grassroots movements and take poll advantage from their dynamics of mobilization. El Libertario is part of a constellation, now scattered and with little coordination, of leftist anti-capitalist groups and organizations that denounce with the same emphasis the government of President Chavez and his opponents in the opposition media. But as you would imagine, these expressions are omitted by the forces which are interested in the perception of the existence of only two sides in conflict. The signals of the existence of a different alternative, that from the fight along with the people from below try to break the electioneering way, it’s being noticed in the recent 2 or 3 years; when little by little the manifestation of the social conflicts let discern the social workers, indigenous , peasants, students, victims of institutional violence and crime, homeless people, etc.. That the struggle for state power will not be the way of resolving their problems, as it hasn’t happened in this decade of alleged revolution, or before in 40 years of deceptive representative democracy.

GS - What activities and demands are promoting the Venezuelan libertarians?

º The today local anarchist movement is young, almost indistinguishable from the time of publication of El Libertario, so we’ve been dealing during these years with the authoritarian ways of the government and the opposition parties, as both are equally unrelated to our proposal. We have faced enormous obstacles, both to settle ourselves as a recognizable option, and to insert us into the concrete social struggles; but our perseverance has paid off and the proof can be found reviewing the pages of the various editions of El Libertario (many are available on our website ), particularly in recent editions, where one can see how certain spaces are opening up to promising connections between anarchist activism and the most dynamic expressions of social mobilization in Venezuela today, ‘cause we seek to interact with the more deep senses of the conflicts of the people and their claims, promoting the autonomy of the social movements and accompanying them in their development. We have been building affinity and various coordination with grass-roots movements and anti-capitalist groups, among which are: the Committee of Victims against Impunity of Lara (Comité de Víctimas contra la Impunidad de Lara), The House of Women “Juana la Avanzadora”(La Casa de de la Mujer "Juana la Avanzadora”)the study group "Pueblo y Conciencia” of Maracay, the Socialist Left Union (Unión Socialista de Izquierda) and the Tendencia Sindical CCURA; the group Tercer Camino of the ex-guerrilla leader Douglas Bravo, a number of health public sector unions, human rights organizations, ecologists groups and youth initiatives.

GS - What are the main currents that occur within the Venezuelan anarchist movement?

º The Venezuelan anarchist scene is still very small and too recent to talk about “currents” in the sense that term can be understood in Europe. Undoubtedly the activists have different affinities and ways of thinking and action, but this does not allow differentiating it in a way that separates them from each other. Moreover, the fact of having to engage libertarian activities where recently doesn’t exist, and in the circumstances we explained before, was rather a stimulus for the little of us to stand united.

It has wanted to present - particularly for the outside world - a division among the local anarchists who would be, first, “anarchist-Chavistas” or “Bolivarian anarchists” who believe that the ongoing revolutionary process allows progress for the libertarian cause, while others would be “anarchist-liberals” or “anarchist-dogmatic”, because we do not recognize this progress, so opposing to the progressive government we play in favour of the empire and the right-wing reaction, which is a self- interested and grotesque simplification of what we have been saying from El Libertario. Obviously, such an imposture about Venezuela and the situation of local anarchists can only be sustained from ignorance, blindness, bad faith and provocation. There are people who at some time were or deemed themselves anarchists, but now proclaim the supposed uniqueness of the historic case of Venezuela, adulterating or disavowing the libertarian, anti-authority and self-managed essence of the anarchist ideal, so that even when they still call them self anarchists, clearly failed to be so. On the other hand, coincidentally, most of them are officers of the current State or receive some government subsidy for their economic activities, which in itself leaves much to be desired about the intensity of their libertarian affiliation. For us, that did reviewed what has occurred in similar situations in the continent, is being repeated with some eccentricities the same that happened in Castro's Cuba or in the Argentina of Perón, where there were attempts from the ruling power to recruit and divide the anarchist movement .

GS – Do you keep relationship with other anarchists in Latin America and the world?

º We are always concerned to establish broader relationship with the anarchists abroad, in particular to our related field of Latin America. First, because our experience is more recent, we want to feed ourselves of what has been and is the path of the (A) in other scenarios, but also because we hope to share our walk, our doubts, our certainties, our achievements and our trips… So, who better than the compañer@s for it! ... In more concrete terms, this relationship has been expressed in the spreading our printed spokesman has been having, of which we are proud to say (and encourages us!) that has been the most widely distributed Latin American anarchist newspaper in the continent in recent times; since their 2000-2500 copies per issue not only go to various places in Venezuela, but also regularly go to at least a dozen other countries. Another significant fact is that our website already exceeds the 160,000 registered hits, with a daily average of between 50 and 80 visits. It has also to be mentioned the countless of direct personal contacts with libertarian people from around the globe. All this translates into a continuous flow of relationships and exchanges with the international anarchist movement, which is for us a constant source of challenges and satisfactions.

GS - What do you think of the International Workers Association (IWA)?

º At a time, when our Collective Editor was known as Committee of Anarchists Relations, (Comité de Relaciones Anarquistas-C.R.A-), we were Friends Group of the IWA, a situation we stopped as our group is not specifically a collective of anarchist- trade union action, neither within local anarchists it has been developed, as we would like, that field of activity which still we bear in mind. Despite that fact, we have maintained cordial relations with both the IWA and with some sections, where we want to highlight in particular the links (both with people as collective bodies) with the National Confederation of Labour in Spain. (Confederación Nacional Del Trabajo -CNT-)

GS - And the International Federation of Anarchists (IFA)?

º Given the profile of our group, we have been very interested in this link, so we have made efforts to maintain relationships with the IFA, from which we have responsiveness and support. As evidence of this link we have the presence of representatives of El Libertario in the last two congresses of the IFA (in Besançon, and Carrara, respectively), and the Solidarity Manifesto with anarchists and social movements in Venezuela, published by the IFA in 2007 (this document is in the section "texts" of our website).

GS - A word about organizations like the Front of Libertarian Actions (Frente de Acciones Libertarias-FAL-). ¿Bolivarian Anarchism or infiltration of the intelligence services?

º We do not know whether it makes sense to speak of a so-called "organization" of which there was only little indication of its existence through what he was saying about itself on the Internet, and also ceased to give signs of life in that media after requested the vote in favour of Chavez in the elections of December 2007. The case is otherwise similar to other nebulae "organizations" that comes to light when trying to prove the real existence of “anarchist-Chavismo” or “Bolivarian anarchism”, respect to which the explanation would have less to do with police conspiracies and more with the psychopathology of some individual obsessions or to justify the acceptance of government subsidies.

GS - Many anarchists outside Venezuela do not know this problem. What do you think you can do to clarify it?

º If the problem is the existence of entities such as the FAL, there won’t be much the anarchists can do against the obsessions or the excuse of official benefits, if that were the case. For the rest, with some anarchist anywhere in the world thinking a little, being consistent with the ideal we stand for and with a minimum of information about the Venezuelan case, he will realize the absolute incongruity of a self-declare “anarchist-Chavista” or “anarchist – Bolivarian”, which is a contradiction so obvious as to self- proclaim "anarchist-statist." In any case, from our publication we will continue the efforts to make known what is said from the Venezuelan anarchism (in our website are a lot of translations into English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese), having the support of many libertarian spokesmen in the world which with great solidarity give us space to our point of views. In any case we invited to meet the views that not only come from El Libertario, but of all the many anti-capitalists initiatives that have denounced the Chavismo for its authoritarian pretention and for benefit the most aggressive sectors of the current global economy. Of course, it would be better if you visit Venezuela to see the reality hidden behind the pseudo-revolutionary Bolivarian spectacle.

GS - What is the attitude of the government against the anarchist groups and individuals who can not control?

º Even if there is not a specific repression against anarchism, the Venezuelan government is moving forward in a policy of control and subjection to any sign of radical dissent that question and fight the foundations of the current system of political and economic domination. This is in no way different from what other States promotes in the rest of the world, even if they want to hide it here under a phraseology of revolution, socialism and people power. Therefore, to the extent that we the anarchists get involved in social struggles and promote their self-development versus the authoritarian power, we are brought before a wave that now hangs over the expressions of the popular movement that refuse to accept that the will of the Commander Chavez is the collective salvation. In this sense we want to describe the repression and the criminalization of social protest that comes from the government: During 2002 and 2004, with the excuse of the coup d’état, modifications were made to various laws, including the Criminal Code and the Organic Law of National Security, which criminalized the closure of streets and conducting strikes in the so-called energetic main companies. What was sold as "punishment for the coup" is now affecting the communities that are mobilizing for their rights. According to figures revealed by the unions, the peasant movement that sympathize with the government and the human rights organizations, there are approximately 1,200 individuals that have to be presented in court for making protests. Moreover, the government does not need to perform, in the first instance, direct repression against the demonstrations, since used intra-state organizations, titled as "people power" to make the psychological and physical contention of the discontent with the pretext of "neutralizing sabotage at the revolution”, which certainly reminds similar strategies used in other countries. If the protests persevere and achieve notoriety, the State appealed to police and military with the same results known anywhere in the world: violent repression which resulted in tragic deaths and injuries. It was like this that the past 20.03.09 they murdered a homeless, José Gregorio Hernández, in an eviction in Anzoátegui State, and the 30.04.09 they murdered a student, Yusban Ortega, in Merida; just to cite only recent cases. In this context, the government describes as "counterrevolutionary, promoted by the CIA and imperialism", any expression of dissatisfaction. Although this strategy has been effective in the past, now has lost some of its effectiveness and the citizens, overcoming fear, have been encouraged to protest for better living conditions.

GS - You have published several articles denouncing trade unions repression by the government. Would you tell us about this issue?

º Cases like that of the two Mitsubishi workers killed in late January 2009 by the "Bolivarian Socialist" police of the chavista governor in Anzoátegui, are - like so many other examples of repression - presented by the government propaganda as an exception outside State policy, or as the result of provocation and / or infiltration looking to muddy the neat official image. But as we have reported in detail in El Libertario, is the implementation of a direction in which is engage the current Venezuelan State - true to its origins in the military coup and the ideological orientation that has found in the dictatorship of the Castro’s in Cuba - which, under the masquerade of the 21st century socialism, try to impose through the “club way” or the “carrot way” an authoritarian model of control over the society, and is making it with the agreement and blessing of their partners of the transnational capital. Today, with the economic crisis of global capitalism, the resources to control by the “carrot way” becomes more limited in Venezuela too, despite the oil wealth, so with all diligence the “stick of the people” (that Bakunin predicted) is falling on the ribs of the oppressed as the inevitable option of the authoritarians self- proclaimed leftists.

And to keep answering the previous question, we recall the situation of the "14 of Sidor", group of workers that, together with the obligation to be presented in court, are being tried for "qualified misappropriation and restriction on the freedom to work" for making protests on their working conditions, which could mean a sentence of between 5 and 10 years in prison (More info on: http://www.nodo50.org/ellibertario/descargas/solidaridad_camila.doc). At this point we must denounce that from the top it has been tried to construct, artificially, union centres controlled by the government party, the PSUV. This manoeuvre has deepened the historic crisis in the sector and strengthened the presence of the "sindicaleros", persons living at the expenses of selling the rights of workers to employers. In addition, we have the brawls between the trade unions fighting for the distribution of jobs, a particular “conquest” of the collective agreements in the oil and construction sectors, where the unions controlled a high percentage of the allocation of jobs. While this situation predates the Chavez government, the current deterioration of the trade union movement, encouraged by the state power, has led this situation to dramatic fields, and this is how in 2007 a total of 48 people, mostly union members, were killed by conflicts related to obtaining employment, with 29 people the figure for 2008. On the other hand, there are known the presidential statements attacking the autonomy of trade unions, as well as the pressure on public employees to join the PSUV and participate "voluntarily" in demonstrations in favour of the government. It is incredible that the firing of people that not sympathize with the official political view, find understanding and justification in persons who consider themselves "revolutionaries". Remember the publication of the census of voters opposed to the government, the so-called "Tascon list" (in honour of Luis Tascon, the deputy who made it public), a list that discriminated, systematically, everyone who was identified as adverse to the government. The official propaganda boasts that Venezuela has the highest minimum wage in the continent, but silent that 18% of workers receive less than that, and that 50% received between 1 and less than 2 minimum wages, in the country with the highest inflation on the continent in the current decade. Nevertheless, today we see with hope, how progressively more workers from different sectors have lost the fear of being criminalized and are coming out to the streets to earn their rights through the struggle.

GS - Do you want to add something?

º To contact us via e-mail, our addresses are: ellibertario@nodo50.org and ellibertario@hotmail.com. We want to thanks for this opportunity to extend our voice ‘cause we are both committed with the social independent action of the oppressed and exploited in Venezuela, as with spreading their struggles free to the interests of state power and capitalism. We also invite those who read this interview and wish to cooperate with the holding of the First Libertarian Book and Video Fair, to be held in Caracas, to write to: feriaa.caracas2009@gmail.com.

Salud y Anarquia! ...

Translation: Julio Pacheco.





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