The controversial speech of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at a conference of the United Nations in New York on Wednesday September 20, in which he called Bush "the devil" and condemned the actions of US imperialism, was covered massively by media worldwide.
In each and every corner of the world, the main points of the speech were transmitted and highlighted in national and international television and the big newspapers. CNN, Fox and other big medias established signals from the UN Conference, to transmit the speech live on the air - something that - apart from Chavez - was only done for the speeches of George Bush and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.
While many of the speeches at the UN gathering were the same boring and largely uninteresting speeches about the need for "dialogue" and "humanitarian aid", Chavez's speech was a ferocious attack on imperialism that caught the attention, not only of international observers, but also of millions of ordinary working men and women around the world.
In Caracas hundreds of activists of the Bolivarian movement gathered in Bolivar Square and watched the speech on big screens set up for the occasion. When Chavez called Bush "the Devil" big waves of enthusiasm swept through the audience.
On the other hand, the bourgeois press in Venezuela, the officials of the counter-revolutionary opposition, and of course the spokesmen of the US administration, hav condemned the speech in violent terms.
The mouthpiece of the Venezuelan oligarchy, El Nacional carried an editorial the day after entitled "Insults at the UN", saying that Chavez had shown "the worst of himself" with this speech and stating that it damaged the international interests of Venezuela and its people. In this editorial the speech was portrayed as personal insults, and mere rhetoric. The same line was carried in other bourgeois papers such as Tal Cual, which termed the speech "twenty minutes of fame". This newspaper even went so far as to put a caricature of Chavez on the front page denouncing himself as the true devil, because the national assembly has just decided to invest some 43.5 billion bolivars in more military equipment.
What is a completely justified attempt on the part of the Bolivarian government to arm itself in defence against a possible foreign intervention is portrayed by the bourgeoisie as an act of militarism, and is compared to the arming of the imperialist powers.
The secret behind the anger and hatred shown by the Venezuelan oligarchy and the circle in the White House is that they are very well aware of the fact that the speech of Chavez is taken very seriously throughout the world.
Evidence of this is the fact that the book recommend by Chavez in his speech has jumped from number 160,772 on Tuesday on the Amazon ranking list of best selling books to number seven and ultimately to number one. This shows the huge interest in left-wing ideas that Chavez has helped to generate.
However the speech has also served to deepen the antagonisms between the Bolivarian government and that of the US even further. Officials in the US administration said that the speech was not worth commenting on and ex-president Bill Clinton said that Chavez was "damaging his own country and people" with such radical declarations. But even more serious than such comments was the sudden arrest of the Venezuelan minister of foreign affairs, Nicholas Maduro, on Saturday, September 22, who was detained for one and a half hours in the New York airport on his way back from the UN summit. US officials said that the incident was a mistake and that the police in the airport did not know that he was a Venezuelan official.
In spite of these statements, the arrest was obviously not a coincidence, but a clear provocation on the part of the Bush government. They want to send a signal to the Venezuelan government and its allies throughout the world. Chavez said the move was a direct attack of the Empire and said that Maduro had been accused of participating in "acts of terrorism" related to the patriotic rebellion of February 4, 1992.
In general what one sees so clearly in the different reactions to the speech is the class line that divides Venezuelan society and also the enormous contradiction between the interests of imperialism and the Bolivarian revolution. The masses are proud of President Chavez because he dares to stand up - even in the Lion's cage - and denounce the crimes of the ruling class. The masses feel that they have a representative that has not been corrupted and renounced the struggle.
This is not the place to go in to the details of Chavez's speech, which does have some contradictory elements and aspects that Marxists do not agree with (especially the parts relating to the reforming of the UN). But when Chavez uses hard words to denounce imperialism it is because what he says corresponds to all the criminal acts of repression, intervention, murder and torture that the US empire conducts in Iraq, Afghanistan and ultimately with their support for the bloody Israeli attack on Lebanon. Many people feel that Chavez is telling the truth that no one else dares to speak about. This explains the widespread and continued support for Chavez.
Within Venezuela events seem to be speeding up. On Saturday Chavez once again explained, "some say that the Devil has given the order to murder me", referring to a possible assassination attempt to wipe him out. In another interview on Panorama Digital, Chavez said that the biggest danger to the revolution "comes from within" and that:
"The main threat is within. There is a constant bureaucratic counter-revolution. I am an enemy on a daily basis. I have to walk around withj a whip, because I am being attacked from all sides by this enemy, the old bureaucracy and a new one which resists changes. So much so that I have to be constantly en guard when I give an instruction, and follow it up so that it is not stopped, or diverted, or minimised by this bureaucratic counter-revolution which exists within the state. This would be one of the elements of the new phase that we are entering in: the transformation of the State.
The State was transformed at the macro level, but the micro levels remain intact. We need to think from now about a new package of laws, to transform the macro political and juridical level down to the lowest levels of the state in order to defeat this resistance.
A sister threat to that of bureaucratic counter-revolution is the counter-revolution of bureaucracy. This is another terrible threat, beacause it strikes where you least expect it"
This is a very accurate description of the struggle that is taking place within the state apparatus between the revolutionaries and the reformists. It is very likely that these contradictions, which were exposed publicly in the debate over the expropriation of the golf-courses, will lead to even more profound clashes in the coming months leading up to as well as after the elections on December 3. This can be determining for the future of the revolution.
Caracas, September 24, 2006