Under the banner of “For freedom of speech and against imperialism”, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas on June 2 in defence of their revolution, and as a direct response to the domestic and international campaign being whipped up by Washington in the wake of the non-renewal of Radio Caracas TV’s (RCTV) broadcasting concession, dwarfing all of the opposition marches that had occurred in preceding days. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced: “If the Venezuelan oligarchy believe that they will stop us with their threats, with their manipulations or with their destabilisation plans, forget it!”
Promising that each destabilisation plan “manipulated by the US empire” would be met with “a new revolutionary offensive!”, Chavez said that “starting from today … a Bolivarian counter-attack” would begin across the country, “in the streets, in the factories, in the universities, in the high schools, in all parts — a truly ideological, political, popular, national and international counterattack”.
When RCTV’s licence to use the free-to-air Channel 2 expired on May 27, the concession was awarded to a new independently produced station, Venezuelan Social Television (TVes), to provide a national space for those previously excluded from the media. This has been used as the latest pretext for an escalating assault against the revolutionary government and people of Venezuela. An international media war has been launched to create the mirage of a democratic protest movement mobilising against the supposed authoritarian, anti-democratic Chavez government. Anti-Venezuela resolutions have been passed by US Congress, the European Union and the right-wing-controlled Brazilian senate.
Chavez explained that behind this latest plot by US imperialism was “the fear that the example of Venezuela will extend to other countries” — that of a revolution sweeping away the old capitalist order and laying the basis for a new, truly democratic socialist society.
Chavez’s speech on history, politics and revolutionary theory once again revealed the powerful dynamic between the organised masses and Chavez that is driving forward this revolutionary process.
Chavez reiterated the points he made after his landslide re-election last December, stating that the victory was not “a point of arrival, but rather a point of departure” for the revolution, and that this mandate had given the government the ability to drive forward its revolutionary project.
“Only 140 days have passed” since the new government’s inauguration, Chavez explained, yet a “new period has started up, accelerating the process of revolutionary transformation”. He pointed to the recuperation of state control over the oil fields in the Orinoco Belt, the re-nationalisation of the telecommunications company CANTV and six electricity companies, as well as the mammoth turnout to register interest in the new united socialist party, the PSUV (by that day, 4.7 million people had registered, reaching more than 5 million by the end of the following day when registrations closed).
The latest step in this “revolutionary acceleration” was “the expiration of the concession that the Venezuelan oligarchic elite had controlled for 53 years for its own abuse and benefits”. Chavez announced that now, “Channel 2 is liberated, it no longer belongs to the oligarchy, nor will it return to the oligarchy. Now it belongs to the Venezuelan people.” This was met with spontaneous chants of “This is how you govern”.
Urging the masses to continue consolidating the “unity of all the revolutionary currents” in order to “continue reaping victories”, Chavez stressed the centrality of the PSUV to the deepening of the revolution: “I want to use these words to insist, from within my heart, on this unitary process of the party, of all the people, the working class, the peasants, the cultural movements … unity of the Bolivarian armed forces, unity of the Bolivarian people.”
Drawing on the “great Italian revolutionary thinker Antonio Gramsci”, Chavez outlined why this process has encountered the reaction of imperialism. Referring to Gramsci’s thesis — “a truly historic crisis occurs when there is something that is dying, but has not finished dying, and at the same time there is something that is being born but which also hasn’t finished being born” — Chavez explained that already by the 1980s, “Venezuela had entered into a historic crisis … [today] we are in the epicentre of the crisis”.
“A good part of the years to come will form part of this historic crisis until the Fourth Republic [the pre-Chavez regime] dies definitively and the fifth republic is fully born — the socialist and Bolivarian republic of Venezuela.”
For Chavez, the Fourth Republic represented the rule of the “US empire and its lackeys here in Venezuela, the oligarchy, the bourgeoisie, the class that dominated Venezuela for 200 years”. This is the same class, he stressed, “that betrayed [Simon] Bolivar, that killed [Jose Antonio de] Sucre, that murdered [Ezequiel] Zamora”, all prominent leaders of Venezuela’s 200 years of struggle for independence.
Chavez explained Gramsci’s concept of “historical blocs” — in which a particular class manages to acquire hegemony that is expressed in structures and superstructures — in order to further draw out the class content of the battle between the fourth and fifth republics.
According to Gramsci, the superstructure of the dominant historic bloc has two levels, the political society — “the institutions of the state” — and the civil society, consisting of economic and private institutions, specifically the church, media and education system, which are used by the ruling class “to spread among the social and popular classes its dominant ideology”.
Chavez noted that one of the “great contradictions” in Venezuelan society today existed between these two factors. “We have been coming along liberating the state”, said Chavez. “Bourgeois civil society used to control” the Venezuelan state, government, legislative and judicial power, state companies, government banks, and the national budget, but “they have been losing all of that”.
Elucidating the battles that lay ahead for the Venezuelan masses, Chavez said that the bourgeoisie was retreating into its last remaining refuges in the media, church and education system.
While “we have no plan to eliminate the oligarchy, the Venezuelan bourgeois”, Chavez stressed that they must accept that the rules have changed. “If the Venezuelan bourgeoisie continues to desperately attack us, utilising the refuges it has left, then the Venezuelan bourgeoisie will continue to lose these refuges one by one!”
“This message is for the Venezuelan bourgeois class. We respect you as Venezuelans, you should respect Venezuela, you should respect the homeland, you should respect our constitution, you should respect our laws. If you don’t do this … we will make you obey the Venezuelan laws!” Again Chavez’s comments were met with chants of “This is how you govern”.
Speaking to a solid core of his supporters, many of whom played a part during the heroic days of April 11-13, 2002, where a counter-revolutionary coup, which RCTV participated in, was overturned by a civic-military uprising, Chavez declared, “We will defeat you again”.
In response, the crowd repeated an earlier chant: “Now it’s the turn of Globovision”, referring to another of the coup-plotting private television stations.
Chavez replied that in the case of RCTV, “we had a lot of patience”, waiting for the concession to expire, “but no-one should believe that it will always be like that. A concession can expire, including before the established time. According to the law, a concession can expire due to violations of the constitution, of the laws, for media terrorism etc.”
What was necessary now was for the Venezuelan masses to continue “constructing the new historic bloc, constructing socialism, constructing the new political society … the socialist state”. At the same, time, there was a “need to continue transforming that old bourgeois civil society”.
Chavez called on the university and high school student movements to “assume the vanguard” together with the working class, the campesinos (peasants) and soldiers.
Chavez finished with the now customary catch cry: “Homeland, socialism or death! We will win!”