Letter from Caracas: Love at first sight with the Venezuelan revolution

This is an eyewitness report from a Marxist.com supporter at the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) in Caracas. It is also a report of his first time in Venezuela and his impressions of the ongoing revolution.

As Goethe once said, “All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.” This statement completely applies to the situation in Venezuela. We have written many pamphlets, articles, and books on the revolutionary situation in Venezuela, but it is actually being in Venezuela that is the best way to confirm these theories.

The festival is really in full swing now. It has many similarities with the Social Forums we have seen around the world, but with more cultural activities. However, the focus of the program is on the political meetings and all the debates. The meetings take place all over Caracas, in public as well as rented buildings. The main centre of the Festival is the Teatro Teresa Carreño, next to the Central Park of Caracas, but the largest hall is probably the Salòn Venezuela at the Fuerte Tiuna military compound, with room for around 1600 people. Marxist.com supporters are intervening at most of the central discussions of the festival, and Alan Woods spoke today at the Salòn Venezuela about militarism (read more on this issue here).

Some of the most inspiring speakers at the festival are the Venezuelans, who continually defend the revolution and its conquests, and speak of the desire to push the revolution forward.

The main slogan of the festival is “For peace and solidarity, we fight against imperialism and war”. But some seem to have gone beyond this slogan, and at most of the sessions socialism is discussed as a way of achieving peace.

The mood here is revolutionary, even most of the soldiers stationed to protect and help the delegates of the festival are talking about the revolution with great sympathy. They are mainly young conscripts who, as well as the other large parts of the working class of Venezuela, have benefited from the revolution too.

The volunteers of the Festival are very revolutionary as well, and many of them see their help to the Festival, as helping to spread the Venezuelan revolution to other countries. Many layers of Venezuelan society (except, of course, for the bourgeois press and the opposition in general) are helping out with the Festival, and you often feel that the state supports the Festival too. One worrying thing is the bureaucracy that one can see in the organisation of the World Festival. While thousands of volunteers work very hard to organise everything and we hear about some of them going 2 or 3 days with no sleep whatsoever, we also hear about problems and manoeuvres in all the Preparatory Committees from all over the world, including the Venezuelan Preparatory Committee.

Apart from the Festival there are many little things you hear and see, which tell you about the revolutionary process here in Venezuela. For instance, you see loads upon loads of revolutionary slogans on the concrete walls of Caracas, in the form of large paintings or smaller graffiti. Imagine for instance any European or North American city that replaced huge chunks of the normal hiphop-graffiti and nametags, with slogans in support of the revolution! Slogans like “¡Uh!¡Ah!¡Chavez no se va!” and “Chavèz, amigo, el pueblo esta contigo” (Chavèz, friend, the people are with you) are quite common. In some rare places pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Bolivar standing together in profile can be found, typically together with socialist slogans.

On a side note, some of you might have noticed that there were local elections in Venezuela last Sunday. Chavez’s party and the other Bolivarian parties won about 80% of the total cast votes in the elections (Read more about this on venezuelanalysis.org). There were many abstentions, but this was not due to the calls of the opposition for people to abstain. Naturally, in some well off areas the abstentions were because of this, however in the strongholds of the Bolivarian revolution - the working class areas and the shantytowns - abstention was quite high because people feel that some “Chavista” candidates do not really represent them. The people trust Chavez and have no time for some councillors that talk revolution and do nothing. This does not mean that the revolution is going down hill, on the contrary, we have seen how everybody gets involved in different grassroots organisations on a community level or industrial level. Some comrades had the opportunity to visit some popular areas of Caracas and it is really amazing to hear people from all generations talking about how they work for their local Healthcare Committee, Water Committee, and Meeting Point for Women, and how all these organisations improve the living standards of the people in the barrios. Another aspect is the huge explosion that has taken place in the development of the media. People come together to set up their own radio stations and outlets. They have very few means with which to do this but do it with a lot of hope. Their aim is to provide good information and entertainment for their neighbours. Street vendors sell little books with the latest laws and they sell like hotcakes outside the schools.  

It is worth noting that all sales of alcohol had been prohibited from bars, liquor stores and supermarkets on the Saturday before the elections. It is also worth mentioning the fact that the Caracas metro was free on Sunday. The Venezuelan population were given measures to focus on democracy and come to the voting polls. This stands in stark contrast to the opposition’s claims of dictatorship. The second state TV channel (Vive TV) went around the areas looking for ordinary people to interview about the elections, as well as about their daily lives, and their political and social activities.

Aside from the revolutionary mood at the Festival, Venezuela still has a lot of problems. On the way back and forth from the Festival area to the accommodations in Ciudad Miranda, one drives through large shantytowns, which have no water, sewers or jobs. The general rate of unemployment stands at around 11%. This can be felt in the streets of Caracas, where thieves and hustlers make the streets unsafe at night. Stories are circulating around the Festival of delegates getting mugged, threatened with guns and the like. There is a long way to go for the Venezuelan revolution, but at the moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel, especially because this Festival will help to spread the revolution a little more.

August 11, 2005