In the International Youth Camp discussed by Jade, I had the pleasure of interviewing four leaders of a Communist Movement in Education. The interview took place in the camp, not far from a lively celebration of the 23rd of January. An incredibly generous Venezuelan translated the entire ordeal in an amazing feat of mental stamina (he also asked that I do not give his name, in fear of US retribution...more on this later). The interview lasted about 40 minutes, but was part of a longer two hour discussion of US Foreign Policy in Latin America, the activism and (international) political savvy of the American public, and a long session of fielding questions from all four of the interviewees, the transaltor, and other campers that happened to be walking by.
The interviewees were from a poor section of a city in Venezuela (the name escapes me now, but the interview will be transcribed for publication in college newspapers). Their ages ranged from 25 to 40, and were able to attend college part time thanks to Chavez's Mision Ribas. The Misions are socio-educational projects to benefit the poor that have until now been entirely left out of the Venezuelan educational system. The government sees these programs as a step towards the eradication of the former system of education that marginalized the poor and rural peoples. In 2004, 1.4 million people were enrolled in the Misions, either attending higher education financed entirely by the state, learning English as a foreign language, learning to read, or attending elementary or high school. The Mision takes its name from Jose Felix Ribas, one of the much beloved Simon Bolivar's generals. Ribas once said “We cannot choose between victory and death. Victory is essential.” This imperitive sentiment carries over to the education of the poor, which is intended to prepare those who have never taken part in the democratic process to join in head-on.
They also explained initiative in farming, such as the encouragement of urban permaculture, organic farming and breeding to mimic Argentina's famed beef, and the the self-sufficiency the food production of Venezuela hopes to achieve. Tuna fish, rice, different types of vegetables, beef, and chicken are all intended to be entirely produced in the country, for consumption within the country. This change is already taking place. The "heche en Venezuela" that adorns much of the food and goods remnids me of the long-dead "Made in America" tags that disappeared entirely with the advent of inexpensive and attractive globalized trade and the foriegn exploitation that it entails.
Culture is not left out of the revolution either. For every one foriegn song played on the state radio stations, two songs produced by Venezuelans must be played. The state run TV stations. I was told that rather than leading to repetitive programming, this initiative has encouraged art production at a rapid clip, leading to a surge in home-grown creativity. Also, television shows from the US that vilify blacks and hispanics as "the bad guy" cannot be shown anymore. The racism works for white America, but not for Black and Latino Venezuela.
The four students were shocked by the sterilized media of the United States, in so much as the overwhelming majority of the US population has never heard of Plan Columbia, the Endowment for Democracy, or the real substance to the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. They asked about censorship and spying, and I explained the matter of the recently revealed NSA and FBI domestic spying horrors, at which time they all agreed that I cannot reveal their names in print for fear of retaliation. They did however invite the NSA to trek down to Venezuela to try and find them, and meet whatever fate they will find.
It was in this interview, and not in the relatively wealthy sections of Caracas that I saw Bolivarian socialism. It is a process, and not anything of a quick fix. People who were critical of Chavez, but tirelessly committed to the revolution they have been working towards for decades. They said that in Venezuela, socialism cannot die, it will just flee to the hills to return another day. This sobering, passionate committment to change left me speechless and made me realize how far consciousness has to change in the US to achieve meaningful, large-scale change. These four people thought in such a wide scope, from the bare necessities of day to day life in Venezuela and how to provide them, to the acute dissection of American capitalism and neoliberalism in both systemic and specific terms.
The interview was very comprehensive, and I cannot do it justice here. It will be uploaded for play on the internet as soon as possible, which may be in a week or more.