Venezuela: El Topo Obrero interviews William Izarra

Commander William Izarra is a retired air force officer, with long standing links with left wing movements, including with leaders of the PRV. He was in charge of ideology in the National Maisanta Commando, and is seen as one of the most consistent and left wing elements within the Bolivarian leadership. This interview was conducted by comrades of the Revolutionary Marxist Current for our paper El Topo Obrero, on December 7th, in his Caracas home.

Endogenous development demands going towards a new peoples’ institutionality”

“The organisations of the people must replace the bureaucratic apparatus”

“The Bolivarian Revolution in essence, draws from Marxism”

El Topo Obrero: How do you see the “new stage” the Bolivarian revolution is going through after the victories in the recall referendum and the October 31 elections?

William Izarra: Once the President was ratified on August 15th, a new phase of the Process opened up. This has been called by Chavez himself the “Leap Forward”. This means the transformation of the capitalist state along the socio-popular endogenous model. It is just a month ago that the president skilfully explained the conception of the new phase of the Process.

Ministers, governors, local mayors, MPs, directors of state-owned companies and leaders of organisations of the Process gathered in Fuerte Tiuna to receive instructions for collective and coordinated action. The highest echelons of government decision-making were present. They all as assimilated the thesis of the President and what needs to be done to materialise it immediately. Jointly and with the humanism of revolutionary fraternity and solidarity, a high morale prevailed in relation to their goals and plans after the elections.

In my opinion, there are three global aspects which summarise the brilliant exposition of the President. The first aspect, in the political field, is the democratisation of the participation of the people. The president eradicated “the finger of the core” [note: an expression which refers to the way in which candidates were appointed by the ruling clique]. He annihilated the rule of the top layers as far as decisions affecting the communities is concerned. One of the tasks in the short term is the selection of candidates to publicly elected positions through primary elections. They will be elected by the organised communities and no longer by party cliques. In fact, the president decided to use this mechanism of election by the rank and file in the forthcoming Council and Parish Junta elections in the first half of 2005.

The second global aspect is the conscious stimulus to promote the building of a model of endogenous growth, with the aim that this will become in the medium term the new economic system of production. One of the aims of the revolution is the change in the relations of production, and endogenous development would be the first collective level of social production. In order to achieve this aim, endogenous development demands advancing towards a new “institutionality” of the state apparatus.

The third aspect is continental geopolitics. The US, presently in a truce regarding Venezuela, will continue to seek ways to destabilise the government, to put an end to the Bolivarian Revolution. The re-election of President Bush, the extension of their military plans for Latin America, the domination of the national security doctrine, the plan to replace the armed forces of Latin American countries with national police forces and the appointment of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State, Porter Goss as the new CIA director, and general Bantz Craddock as Commander of the Strategic Southern Command, are just some of the examples which show the new direction the empire is taking regarding the Bolivarian process. To this we must add the continuation of para-militarism. Bush’s visit to Colombia and the prominence given to the Southern Command in the decision-making process for hemispheric affairs. We could say that the US SOUTHCOM has replaced the State Department in the development of policies towards Latin America and the Caribbean. Therefore, the national community, the revolutionaries and the community leaders must be ready for any surprise action that might come, openly or through covert actions, from the empire. This is also part of the Leap Forward.

El Topo Obrero: In this “leap forward” within the revolutionary process, don’t you think that there are sections within the process who lack revolutionary consciousness, are reformist and might put obstacles to the change in the structures?

William Izarra: The Revolution is a change of structure. The political model of the Bolivarian process is revolutionary. The change of structure means the building of a new political system (State, productive apparatus and power relations). The structure is the dimension of how society works, where the genetic factors inter-relate and which produce the visible actions (observable facts). The structure is the genesis of the phenomena. A revolution acts on the structure while its opposite, reform – or reaction – only operates on the level of phenomena (that which is visible and verifiable). Reform does not transform the structure. Reform is contrary to revolution. The political model of representative democracy is reform. It does not seek change in the political system. The revolution is going to create a new system of relations which will establish a new “institutionality”. Representative democracy is based in the representation of the people. On the contrary a revolution has no representatives, only spokespersons. In the revolution decisions are taken directly by the people, not the representatives. In Venezuela representation led to cliques which took over power and isolated the people.

The aim of representative democracy is not revolutionary. It has been conceived to satisfy the aims of reformist cliques. The whole of the bureaucratic state apparatus of representative democracy –governorships, mayors, municipal councils and the other bureaucratic political units – is reformist. The reformist state imposed a political culture based in cronyism and dependency. Despite the existence of the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, the reformist state still exists. Despite the growth of the Bolivarian model, the reformist state is still the body that regulates the nation. This contradiction produces the current stage of transition towards revolution.

The revolution, in order to find its own way must operate at the level of the structure of representative democracy. It must change and eradicate the present State. It must replace all these bureaucratic political units (for instance the mayors) which dominated over the people. In the revolution, the organisations of the people must replace the bureaucratic apparatus. The managers of the State (bureaucrats) will not be the ones who decide. They will only be tools of the people. The power of decision-making will be in the hands of the people. The people will create a new organisation of the State. The people, further to the expressions of participation already instituted by the 1999 Constitution, has to invent other forms of organisation and decision-making in order to take hold of its own destiny. The essence of the revolution lies within the creative power of the people.

Currently, representative democracy still has a very significant space within Venezuelan reality. Reformist culture has assimilated a lot of “revolutionaries”. Ideological weakness alters the attempt to deepen a process. The absence of values, beliefs and principles based in the spirituality of the human being, limits the advance of the Venezuelan revolution. Ideological weakness forces us to take circuitous routes. It delays the fulfilment of the phases and stages of the project. The guarantee of the revolution is ideology. This is what stimulates the inner forces of the being not to be seduced by the fascination of reformist power, power is to be used (not based on attachment to the material order of things). The ideology is the lever with which to catapult the revolution forward. It is the channel through which to build peoples’ power. This is the challenge facing the revolutionaries, to build the road of the revolution or to fail to the ambitions of power. And this can be achieved with revolutionary consciousness.

El Topo Obrero: Don’t you think that the oligarchy, the Venezuelan ruling class and US imperialism will try to prevent this “leap forward”, stop any attempt to improve the living conditions of the population?

William Izarra: It is true, in fact this apparent calm, this “truth” dictated by the US to the Bolivarian process is based on two factors: first that the opposition did not fulfil the expectations. This opposition did not serve the Empire and, therefore, they are looking for a new, more effective opposition without obviously abandoning the road of destabilisation and “self-destruction” of the Bolivarian process. For instance, the assassination of Danilo Anderson has links to the CIA. The truce declared by the Empire towards the Bolivarian revolution is the result of a new political situation in the Venezuelan scenario: (i) victory of the NO with a margin of 20%; (ii) economic stability with an economic growth which could reach 12% compared to last year; (iii) the price of oil which has contributed to the development of the social programmes; (iv) big popular support for the revolution; (v) the attachment of the President to the Bolivarian Constitution. All this forces the US to tolerate the terrain won by the Bolivarian process. But, while the truce is, their covert operations continue unhindered. The covert actions, the speciality of the CIA, are still going ahead, although they are disguised and hidden, waiting for a more favourable conjuncture to come to the surface.

El Topo Obrero: What legacy has Danilo Anderson left to the Venezuelan people?

William Izarra: He is a symbol of revolutionary struggle. Danilo Anderson has gone from being a brave public figure, of institutional commitment, of proven ethical and moral righteousness, to a martyr of the revolution.

His assassination is a warning to us. It tells us to expect the most despicable actions of imperialist sabotage. The Empire wants to destabilise, to uproot the Bolivarian Revolutionary process. The assassination of Danilo Anderson is proof of the opposition of the Empire. The CIA does not rest, does not cease in its work. It keeps seeking the possibility of “mass murder” against the President of the Republic.

El Topo Obrero: Recently you spoke at a forum in the Venepal paper mill in defence of the workers and against the closure and the plans of the multinational Smurfit.

William Izarra: Yes, this case must be taken as a symbol. We could even draw a parallel with the years of Independence; with the battles fought in the years between 1810 and 1821, when the forces of the opposing camps lined up for a head on confrontation. This is very similar to what is happening at Venepal now. This, in the near future, may underline the very essence of the Bolivarian revolution, in its idea of giving power to the workers. Furthermore, at Venepal the workers have shown themselves not only to be capable of running their company, but also to increase the quality of production. On the other hand, Venepal should become a nucleus of endogenous development and thus transform itself into an example and an emblematic spearhead of the dignity and strength of the revolutionary workers.

It might happen that Venepal will go down in history, one hundred years from now, as the Battle of Carabobo did in the past. At that time it was the lancers, carrying their lances and machetes, today it is the workers, waiting, seeking the nationalisation of the company so that it can be run by the workers. Venepal is not only important for the Venezuelan revolution, but for the whole of the continental movement for emancipation.

El Topo Obrero: Is the President aware of the problem of Venepal?

William Izarra: The president is aware of the situation the workers at Venepal are facing and there are good prospects for the aims that the workers have given themselves. He knows of the project that was drawn up by the workers. He is an untiring generator of whirlwinds of actions in support of the process. Venepal is one of the aims he wishes to achieve.

El Topo Obrero: In the field of the ideological battle, what do you think the ideas of Marxism can contribute to the Bolivarian Revolution.

William Izarra: I think that fundamentally the Bolivarian Revolution draws its essence from Marxism – if not directly, at least in its conceptual content. Although it also draws inspiration from early Christianity, from the original ideas of our liberators and from the advanced thought of progressive currents which have been inspired by Marxism. This forces us to deepen the process and to be in constant contact with all the currents of revolutionary thought throughout the world. For its materialization we count on the Marxists.

To develop the idea of revolutionary democracy, the core of direct democracy, demands the study of Marxism and to take from its postulates the precepts which sustain peoples’ power – to base ourselves on its scientific definitions those which show us the best way of achieving the common good of the whole.

How can we achieve that? One of the tasks that the President has assigned to me is to continue to advance in the ideological field and one of the proposals we are going to launch immediately, at the beginning of the new year, is a gathering with the Marxists of the world. We need to see the contribution of Marxism to the Bolivarian revolution, seeing the continental and worldwide sweep that the Venezuelan process – led by its leader Hugo Chavez – is starting to have. We have to see what contribution the Marxists can make to our process, the Marxist criticism of the process, the incorporation of their more viable ideas, all that which can be incorporated within the framework of the postulates of the Bolivarian Revolution.

El Topo Obrero: Let’s talk about the latest trip of President Chávez. An important point in that visit was the meeting in Madrid with Spanish workers of the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) trade union. What was your impression of that meeting with Spanish workers at which you were also present?

William Izarra: The answer, in the main, can be found in the good mood of the President. Obviously, diplomatic relations can be many times charged with calmness and even coldness. But when a revolutionary identifies with the mass, with that symbiosis which takes place between the leader and the mass, there we can see the disposition of the mood, the spirit embodied, the materialization of the dreams. With the Spanish workers the President reached a level of motivation generated by the perception of those moments. The whole scenario was draped in an openly revolutionary mood.

El Topo Obrero: To end, what would you like to say to readers of El Topo Obreros and the comrades of the CMR?

William Izarra: I would say that from the point of view of the concepts expressed, the ideas and the role that you play by circulating El Topo Obrero, it is important to stimulate the creation of the network of Ideological Education Centres (CFI), which we are creating nationally. We are entering the stage of the Leap Forward which allows us to position ourselves in a new dimension of revolutionary attitude and aptitude. It is time to go back to the school desk, to study, to read, to analyse, to compare positions, to reach new conclusions, in one word, to invent the revolution. The CFI therefore, are looking to follow the ideas of Simón Rodríguez, and to say, as the teacher of our Liberator said: “... either we invent or we make mistakes”.

El Topo Obrero is one of the fundamental tools, needed from the point of view of theory, the evolution of thought, the creation of ideas for all the revolutionary militants. Therefore, from the pages of El Topo Obrero, we make an appeal to all genuine revolutionaries to join with us, to contribute their grain of sand, to create the ideological education network nationally.