The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle

Tomas Gorman • 8 August 2005

It’s true to say that some things are the same all around the world, no matter how far you go. Alexis took a fair deal of coaxing before he would sing us all a song but once he got going we couldn’t shut him up. It was my last night in Caracas and for the last hour of my English class at the Juan Alberdi School, we had pulled our chairs around in a circle and chatted about different things. They wanted to know more about Ireland and quizzed me on the weather, landscape; food etc whilst I drew crude maps of Europe on the blackboard for them. It was typical for the Friday classes to finish like this. The missions were about meeting socially too and sharing experiences and knowledge gained during the last week. I enjoyed these Friday evening s immensely. They bubbled with excited Spanish and laughter. I was usually the main target of all the banter (being the novelty in the class) and my last night was celebrated with the women teaching me the salsa, meringue and rumba dance steps and in exchange I had to sing an Irish song for the class at the blackboard. At home this kind of abandonment of prudence would be unspeakable in sobriety, but here in this classroom in Western Caracas, such was the joy and abandon that it would have been embarrassing not to have joined the melee.

It would of course be better to have had visited the poor Barrios of Caracas both pre and post Chavez, but I doubt that such vitality and spirit existed there ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

Maydays march in Caracas was one event that I had looked forward to with great anticipation. James, my English host, travelled with me by Metro to the marches starting point at the La Bandera district. The Metro was heaving with people in red chavista t-shirts moving hurriedly; talking excitedly. When we ascended to ground level at La Bandera station, I was taken aback by the size of the crowd waiting to disembark. It was a sea of red with the occasional truck dressed with flags pumping out lively Latin music that the crowd naturally danced along the route to. The sheer vibrancy of the crowd swept me away. The contrast between the Mayday processions that I had attended in Belfast was stark. Our processions were conservative, orderly, almost sombre, as though we were commemorating socialism as an old friend that we had buried in 1989. Here in Caracas, half a million people were celebrating socialism and workers solidarity as something very much alive and growing. They danced and waved flags as they snaked their way through Caracas to the rally point where Hugo Chavez gave his rousing address. I was able to get quite close up to the speaking platform and heard him describe the goals of the revolutionary process; “the creation of a new fair and equal Bolivarian Socialist Venezuela we see forming and building around us”. The people responded to all of his strong points with cheers, whistling and flag waving. I proudly waved my Starry Plough high over the crowd and was elated to see it on the Venezuelan news channel that night.

What was evident that Mayday in Caracas and in the classrooms and every Barrio I visited was the exuberance and enthusiasm that the people had for the revolutionary process. Venezuela is embarking on, what is in many respects, a unique revolutionary transition. It is taking place in the context of various socio-economic and political factors which are also unique to Venezuela and to try and replicate the Venezuelan model here in Ireland would be in vain. However, we can take certain elements and lessons from it. The Bolivarian government has begun to organise its society around the needs of its people. It has begun to use the land and resources as a commonwealth for the benefits of its people. In doing so it has relieved many welfare and economic pressures that the people suffered and created space for them to fulfil their full human potential by whatever means they wish. It is creating a culture where success and achievement are not measured strictly in material gain but in sports, arts, technological, agricultural and industrial development.

It’s true to say that some things are the same all around the world, no matter how far you go. If we can find the imaginative ambition, tempered with the reality of our own socio-economic and political status-quo, to create the space for our own people to develop our society along similar lines, radical change would surely follow. It is how we do this is, in my opinion, our greatest challenge.

One of my motivations is to see the same vitality and vibrancy that I experienced on my last night in that classroom in Western Caracas. I left the classroom that night sad that I was going home, but with my heart swelled with joy, my head bursting with ideas.














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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

17 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Changes Needed All Over
Eamonn McCann

Get Tough Now
Dr John Coulter

What for the Future?
Mick Hall

Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
Paul Little

Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman

10 August 2005

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman



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