Monday, April 7, 2008

Worker Integration in Venezuela - Labour Policy Headed in Two Different Directions - Part 1

With the recent complications in Venezuela regarding the conflict with the SIDOR workers, the situation in the country is becoming critical to the future of the Revolution. Without jumping to conclusions in condeming the state, the governments blunder in response to the SIDOR struggle is either a result of a lack of communcation between officials, ministers, and President Chavez, or a misunderstanding of the seriousness of the situation because of distortions by the reactionary media in Venezuela, which is closely aligned with Ternium-Techint, the private transnational owner of SIDOR. Nevertheless, Chavez's government has been sending vague mixed messages in stating its position with SUTISS(Iron and Steel Workers' Union), and needs to categorically declare itself in solidarity with its workers immediately by nationalizing SIDOR and expelling Ternium from the country, or its credibility as a "workers' governement", as Chavez claims, will be seriously questioned. Meanwhile, Venezuela's people, and more specifically in this case, its workers, are upholding an unyielding revolutionary line in their anit-capitalist, anti-imperialist demand for the nationalization of SIDOR. But while this potentially disheartening government mistake is unfolding, exciting socialist processes involving genuine workers integration are taking place in other parts of the country.

One example of this is the recent announcement that the dairy factory Lacteos Los Andes in the state of Merida, is now a socialist workplace of social property which will redistribute some of its revenues for various social programs. The government also announced the creation of the National Fund Foundation for Dairy Production(Fonaprole in its spanish acronym) which will finance and subsidize the purchase of machinery, equipments, and resources, and completely cover the entire cost of artificial insemination for the dairy industry. The initiative is an investment in relation to PDVAL(Productor y Distribuidora Venezolana de Alimentos), the agency for National Food Production and Distribution, which was launched earlier this year, in its mission to attain "soberania alimentaria", food sovereignty. President Chavez said these steps are being taken in order to guarantee the "complete food sovereignty that our nation badly needs to end the sabotage that the large monopolies hold over the consumption of food."

The redistribution of revenues from Lacteos Los Andes is to be reinvested into the building of University campuses, to food donations, and to social care for children and seniors amongst other things, as proposed by President Chavez.

In terms of workers' conditions, a human resources official from Lacteos Los Andes told factory workers that stability was assured along with the collective agreements, in expressing his guarantees of workers' rights. For their part, the workers claimed that this transformation to a national factory of social production is a positive change which will permit the necessary distribution of dairy products in communities throughout the country. One worker said that "the workers are very proud because today a real revolutionary process is being consolidated; they feel proud because they are protagonists of a new change."

While speaking with workers at Los Andes, President Chavez suggessted to them the possibility of starting work sooner after lunch in order to leave work earlier in the afternoon. Venezuela is also in the process of implementing a six hour work day. He also said "the revenues of this factory will not be for one person, or ten people...the revenues will be to pay fair salaries to all of you....after you are paid, after the materials for the factory and the milk producers are paid, will the money go to Chavez? No, to the people...and a percentage of that revenue can be used, for example to set up a university campus right here in this area, of for care for children, or for food packages, thats social labour, thats one of the differences between capitalism, it produces good things, milk, food, cars, etc., but, the profits of the capitalists make the rich get of the main differences is that the profits are not for one person, in a foreign bank account, and often there is flight capital that leaves the country, thats the big difference between capitalism which makes profits for a minority, and socialism which is for the majority, wealth distribuited amongst everyone in a better way." He explains this surrounded by a group of enthusiastic workers outside while touring the factory.

This is just one example of a huge national process going on throughout Venezuela, which many workers are obviously passionate about. Unfortunately, for the time being, the current conflict with the SIDOR workers has cast an unfriendly shadow on an otherwise beautiful progression of workers' integration as the motor of the Bolivarian Revolution. Because of this, Chavez's government has a lot to answer to in order to reaffrim its solidarity with the Venezuelan working class. I will analyze the SIDOR conflict more closely soon in a second part to this article. But the Revolution was made by the people and has been open, honest, and blunt since the beginning, and will continue to do so. Rather than turn on their President and government, the people will maintain the pressure and moral criticism until their leaders correct themselves. To overcome their differences, they must unite rather than divide.

Solidarity with Venezuela's workers, Bolivarian Circles, and popular power!
No to the Institutionalization of the Revolution!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Media as the Voice of Imperialism's Lies

"I believe that unarmed Truth and unconditional Love will have the final word in reality." - Martin Luther King.

"The truth must not only be the truth, it must be told." - Fidel Castro.

In the face of proliferating revolutions internationally of greater frequency and intensity in the last few years, Imperialism has been forced to step up its attacks. The U.S. has slight military presence, or at least military allies, mainly in Mexico, El Salvador, and Colombia, but with most of the Empire's military energy already consumed in several war zones around the world, namely in the Middle-East, they have had to rely increasingly on economic sabotage, and more importantly the media to wage a dirty war in Latin America. This article will show that the right-wing media is chauvinistic because it serves as an instrument to wage a culture war against an alternative to capitalism, against the vital belief that another world is possible. The intellectual attack that the media is waging against the public is xenophobic towards humanity simply because its creed believes in money more than it does in man.

The topic to be analyzed is the distortion of the Colombia-Ecuador-Venezuela conflict by the reactionary media, in response to a 03/8/08 article in the Globe And Mail by one Vladimir Torres. In the past few months the media has very carefully crafted a slander campaign to further discredit Venezuela and to link Hugo Chavez with the FARC by any means necessary, even if the rhetoric is unreasonable and ridiculous. According to Torres, "In the case of Venezuela, there are no doubts: Mr.Chavez's support for the FARC is unequivocal". The media clamors "unequivocal", yet the rumour that Venezuela supports the FARC is pure speculation, there have never been any hard facts or clear evidence of this. The right-wing media has clung to these fabrications ever since Mr.Chavez began mediating a diplomatic solution with the FARC for hostage release a few months ago. He has been very successful at this, securing releases on two seperate occasions thus far, something the Colombian government has been unable to achieve for a number of years because it always seeks a military solution to every problem. The media also forgets that it was Mr.Uribe in the first place who had asked for Mr.Chavez's intervention to help out with the FARC crisis.

They also claim that Mr.Chavez's alleged support for the FARC "partly explains his disproportionate reaction to Colombia's incursion into Ecuador." Yet, Mr.Chavez's reaction was hardly disproportionate considering Colombia, the US' military puppet on the mainland, militarily committed a violation of sovereignty against a much smaller and weaker Ecuador, a sister nation in the Bolivarian family of South America. And the article goes on to say that "Venezuela had no business in the bilateral incident between Colombia and Ecuador", in the typical greedy, selfish right-wing conception of every country for itself. But the Revolutions in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia are not individual isolated national movements, they are communal pieces of a larger continental, and eventually international Revolution for the mutual benefit and equality of all peoples. So for these reasons the Colombia-Ecuador flare-up was not simply a "bilateral incident", and Hugo Chavez was entirely justified in condemning the unacceptable actions of the Colombian government and of temporarily cutting off diplomatic relations, and of deploying troops to the broder with Colombia to defend its territorial sovereignty and to ensure the security of his people. Unlike Colombia, Venezuela did not launch an offensive military incursion into a neighbour country, and it is absolutely absurd and infuriating that the media is trying to make Chavez look like the bad guy.

The Globe and Mail article also goes on to say that "Colombia says it has uncovered evidence of Mr.Chavez's involvement with the Colombian guerrillas on Mr.Reyes' computer. Documents and letters showcase the guerrillas' tight links with the Venezuelan regime, including strategizing discussions, payments for as much as $ 300 million, code references to airplanes and "kilos", and direct contact and negotiations between Ivan Marquez, one of the seven members of the FARC's high command, and Venezuela's interior minister." The Colombian government which claims to now posses Mr.Reyes' computer says it will take this evidence to the International Criminal Court. Yet, dirty lies and allegations, allegations, allegations have been thrown at Venezuela ever since Hugo Chavez was elected in 1999, and nothing has ever materialized or been proven. The most recent incident prior to the Colombia-Ecuador flare-up were allegations in early January which surfaced around the time of Argentina's presidential election, that Venezuela had provided $ 800,000 cash to boost Cristina Fernandez's campaign. Where this story falls apart, however, is why the Venezuelan government would have gone through the trouble of sending such a negligable amount of money for something as large as a presidential election, one which was almost guranteed to be a landslide victory for the Kirchner's in any event? Two, why they would have sent the money in cash concealed in a suitcase when they could have simply channeled it through secret accounts? And three, why the Argentinian government which obviously would have been aware of the plan, would have allowed the money to be discovered and declared publicly? Like all other allegations, these accusations never went anywhere, the charge was never brough to court, it was mentioned for a week and a half and the issue died, because the reactionaries of course have no case. So, these latest accusations linking the FARC with Venezuela are in all likeliness nothing but more lies, and it would come as a huge surprise if the Colombian government actually went forward with unfounded slander as the basis for "legal" action against Venezuela. But it looks like the imperialists might be gearing up for a bigger showdown this time, perhaps even militarilly, trying to take down Venezuela and to bring other countries along with it.

Probably the most ludicrous and far-fetched tale that the media has come up with so far, and this has been repeated in The Globe and Mail, The Economist, and many other neo-liberal and right-wing newspapers, is that Hugo Chavez is chasing an external war to alleviate Venezuela's alleged domestic shortfalls. The Globe and Mail wrote that "Mr.Chavez's belligerence...has more to do with his domestic political problems than with the Colombia-Ecuador dispute", and that president Chavez is chasing a war because "his support has fallen considerably since losing a referendum in December to change the country's constitution. Despite record oil prices, Venezuela is facing food shortages, as imposed controls are taking their toll on the economy." First of all, Revolutionaries who are human beings first and politicians second only out of necessity, and who regard their public as people rather than simply as constituencies, do not play these sorts of dirty political games. They do not engage in dishonest ploys to dupe their own people, and they do not need to tell duplicitous lies because they are up front and open with the nation, through speeches, forums, and assemblies. The reactionary media will try to make people believe that President Chavez's weekly broadcast "Alo Presidente" is egocentric and dogmatic, but in reality it is just his creative way of letting the Venezuelan people know what is going on with their government and their country. In fact it is not always only political issues being talked about, but he often goes into details about his personal thoughts, the life of the country in general, from cultural initiatives to municipal projects, from historical anecdotes to ideology, so that the people of the country know exactly what they're getting, and how and why national decisions are being evaluated in a certain way. So no, President Chavez does not need to create external conflicts to distract attention away from the domestic situation. Secondly, the claim that support for President Chavez has fallen siginificantly in the last few months is either an ill-informed assumption, or a convenient lie for the media since it connects nicely with the referendum defeat. And, to link food shortages with economic mismanagement because of the price controls is completely inaccurate, because the shortages are in fact caused by greedy corporate producers who stockpile in order to cause a supply crisis in protest against the price controls. Furthermore these tactics are nothing new. Depriving and even starving people of food and medicine to express their dissatisfaction with diminished profits is something the imperialists and transnationals have been doing for decades for economic and political gains. And, to say that the population is unhappy with the food shortages is true only for those Venezuelans who are less informed about the political complexeties of the situation. The Cuban people for example have dealt with food and medicine shortages for almost 50 years, but they continue to patriotically support the Revolutionary stance of their government. The consequences and reasons of the food shortages that Venezuela is currently experiencing, and suggestions on how to resolve it, are being discussed weekly in communal councils all over the country, with the help and involvement of the government at all levels.

As if the inaccurate and unenlightened assumption that Chavez is creating an external conflict to "galvanize internal support" and "distract attention" wasn't outlanidsh enough, they add on extra accusations that he could use the war with Colombia as a way to "create a state of emergency and disqualify opposition voices as traitors". This is so typical of the right-wing media, to contrive the most extraordinary defamation fables without any proof or substance, in order to slander the rebellious third world countries who refuse to serve their markets and resources to capitalism on a silver platter. The media attempts to suggest that Venezuela is an undemocratic autocracy, but a country where popular participatory democracy governs, where constitutional changes are discussed and ammended by communal councils in neighbourhoods, then municipally, regionally, and nationally for months on end, and then put to a nationl referendum where the president graciously concedes victory to his opponents, is actually a shinning example of genuine democracy compared to the two-party system of western neo-democracy, where constitutional changes would merely be discussed by 300 or so of the country's richest people and passed without any input from the powerless token public. So Hugo Chavez's imaginary iron fist is actually the last thing the Capitalists need to worry about.

The answer to the malicious lies of imperialism must be the integrity of The Battle of Ideas, the fight for Truth to prevail over evil.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Consequence of Mexico - Part I

Today we can speak of Latin America as the most explosively Revolutionary region in the world. In the last decade and even more so in the last few years, its people have demonstrated tremendous revolutionary organization, energy, and maturity. This great potential has generated exemplary international leadership and has united youth, and indigenous social movements throughout the world. In the final showdown between Capitalism/Imperialism and Revolutionary Internationalism, some refer to this final struggle as the Fourth World War, positioning through geographical victories, politically or militarily, will have a vital impact on the outcome. Therefore, in order to be methodical with our assets and to properly evaluate our objectives, we must spend considerable attention on Mexico which will be an immensely critical piece of the international puzzle. It is quite probable that Latin America will be the first continent to completely liberate itself from the yoke of imperialism, and a successful socialist revolution in Mexico would help accelerate that process.

At the same time, it is a daring outlook to risk miscalculating the Imperialists in their own hemisphere. With the reactionary, neoliberal PAN (National Action Party) in power in Mexico, U.S. Imperialism is well placed to exert geographic, economic, and political control over Latin America. The friendly and subservient government of Felipe Calderon in the second biggest country in Latin America, the one that seperates the north from the south, is the U.S.' most crucial gamepiece and lifeline to the continent.

Still, we cannot overlook or underestimate how profoundly a Mexican Revolution would resonate in the conscience of the working class, and Black and Latin American populations of the United-States. Fidel Castro refers to these groups as the "Third World of the United-States", to which is added social marginality on top of racial discrimination. The tide of resistance radiating from the Rio Grande, from destitute border cities such as Matamoros, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana, some of Mexico's worst victims of crime and poverty, could quickly set ablaze the south of the United-States, where Blacks and namely Latinos are concentrated.

The subjectively ripe and mature south of revolutionary Mexico would also have a huge impact on Central America. The objective conditions in Guatemala are extremely acute and have been very thick for decades. The country is swollen with a multitude of ugly coagulated problems, and along with El Salvador and Mexico is the country in Central America which most closely resembles Colombia. Decades of neo-colonialism and brutal right-wing dictators have created these conditions of severe poverty and rampant organized crime. The people of Guatemala are looking for a way out; they will find it through a struggle which will be a very bloody and difficult one full of sacrifices, and help will come via the popular resistance of Southern Mexico. In El Salvador political freedoms are also very hard to come by, as the ruling class ARENA party has established laws against "terrorism" to implement the criminalization of protest. But the left is very militant and very well organized in El Salvador under the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional), and the weakening of U.S. grip and support with the national oligarchy could free up the necessary breathing space for the popular struggle to move ahead. With Guatemala and El Salvador rising along with Mexico, the reactionary forces in the rest of Central America would not be able to contest the human groundswell surging through the isthmus.

Mexico's Revolution, and the Internal Challenges

Mexico boasts some strong unions, namely the SNTE (National Teacher's Union), and has generated two social movements to be taken seriously in the past decade or so; the Zapatistas in Chiapas, and the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). APPO took fire in 2006 when an initial teacher's strike turned into a full-blown attempt at ousting the PRI's (Institutional Revolutionary Party) Ulises Ruiz, the governor who continues to push a 70 year old oppressive dictatorship in the state of Oaxaca. Although the initial spark is over and APPO was contained with brutal and violent repression, it is still a young movement which remains active and full of potential, and they should not be discounted or underestimated. They will be keynote contributors to Mexico's Revolutionary future, if not leaders.

For their part the Zapatistas and their armed body the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional) have been quiet as of late, the army itself has not conducted any military operations apparently since 1994. In 2001 a convoy of EZLN leaders entered Mexico City to demand the approval of an Indigenous law. They were greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters, but despite access to the frenzied mass, Marcos was unable to create much. During 2006 and the beginning of 2007 Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas, toured Mexico as part of an alternate non-electoral campaign, "La Otra", to rival the presidential elections, seeking solidarity with activist intellectuals, social movements, and the media in order to pressure for the writing of a new constitution. This effort also failed to bear tangible results for the moment, although Marcos and his entourage did manage to visit at least seventeen states. It is reported that on at least one occasion, Marcos has had the opportunity to give speeches in front of huge crowds but has not seized the moment. Some of the Zapatista leaders have gone into hiding for the time being, in response to increased threats from paramilitaries.

Although these movements have been impressive at times, they have not yet been constant, and they have been concentrated in relatively small areas in such an immense country like Mexico, where organization is more difficult over such vast territory and so many differrent states. But the main reason for the slow revolutionary progress nationally in Mexico is the question of effective Revolutionary leadership, or lack thereof. In an economically, culturally, and politically heterogeneous country like Mexico, no one has yet to carry through the full scope of the unifying role, but the APPO has put forward a model which could serve the rest of Latin America, if not the world. Mexico is the Queen-piece in the chess game to checkmate Neo-Colonialism in Latin America, and so it needs to be one of the leading protagonists internationally in the Social Justice/Anti-Imperialist movement in the next decade and beyond.

We call for International Solidarity with the APPO, the Zapatistas, and all Revolutionary Forces in Mexico!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

El Medico Del Siglo 21

On Monday February 4th 2008, Nabeel Yar Khan left Canada as the first student ever to go study medicine in Cuba at ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine). Each year Cuba trains thousands of doctors, hundreds among those students from the poorest, most remote, most neglected areas of countries all over the world. Cuba's internationalist mission in healthcare is a program which offers scholarships to poor students to study medicine on the island, with the intention for them to return to practice in their home communities in need, or wherever they may be needed througout the world. In the most dire situations all across the globe, Cuba also sends medical teams, always first on the scene, to secure those who are abandoned by the international community.

Worldwide Cuba has over 30,000 doctors providing free medical care to more than 60 countries, they have been praised, loved, and appreciated by thousands accross the world for their unconditional, selfless sacrifices. To illustrate a few examples, they have been greatly complimented by Pakistanis for their efforts and refered to as having the "souls of angels". They work often in the most difficult conditions, with language barriers, and are dispatched to relieve the most horrific natural disasters. While they were working in Haiti, the country's president Rene Preval said, in expressing appreciation for their contributions, that the "Cuban doctors are second only to God." Fidel Castro sees their contributions as a crucial message of human solidarity, and says that the international teams set examples for "this humanity which will someday be truly humane."

Cuba's medical efforts in Canada were initially intended to reach out to the aboriginal community, to offer opportunities to students from these often overlooked communities, and for them to have the ability to give back to their communities upon returning. However, one particular comrade insisted on being an exception to the rule. Last year, Nabeel now a Canadian who's parents originated from India, participated in an exchange program which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cuba. While he was there he did volunteer work in a community clinic, an experience which opened his eyes two the exceptional realities of the Cuban healthcare system. He later wrote: "What I learned was that Cuba utilizes a system of preventive medicine, which Canada does not utilize. I believe Cuba could be a model for the Canadian health care system...I believe that this system is not only a model for Canada but the World entirely." After his experience, Nabeel was determined to become an internationalist doctor, and began taking the necessary steps to go study at ELAM.

Nabeel who is also involved in Cuba solidarity work in Canada, draws inspiration from Ernesto Che Guevara. In a letter sent to Fidel Castro, Nabeel wrote that "Ernesto’s characteristics have placed an imprint on me...I want to portray Ernesto by also fighting, not with arms, but with medicine, to help people around the world who are in desperate need." After his six year committment in Cuba, this young revolutionary has said that his "primary goal is to become a doctor, not to migrate back to Canada and practice, because it is a country that has substantial aid, but to take the education, skills, and capabilities to help the less developed and war-torn countries in this world." Nabeel is a pioneer who has made the valiant and selfless decision to offer the medical expertise he will learn for the well-being and prosperity of all the world's children; he is an inspiration and example to future Canadian students who aspire to study medicine. So in the spirit of Che Guevara, an exemplary human being who was also a doctor, we do justice to this cause by recalling some of his insight. In August of 1960 while giving a speech to Cuban medical students and health workers, in refering to the road taken by revolutionary doctors, Che said that "nobody can point out that stretch; that stretch is the personal road of each individual; it is what he will do everyday, what he will gain from his individual experience, and what he will give of himself in practising his profession, dedicated to the people's well-being."

Julien Lalonde for
Toronto Forum on Cuba.