Healing -- a Crucial Aspect of Any Revolution

Tomi is a 30-year-old reggae singer/poet from Nigeria/Jamaica who has been living and working in Venezuela for a year. His friend Johnny is a tall English-speaking reggae performer from the Caribbean island of Dominica. They both support Hugo Chavez and the Reform, although they were not born or raised in Venezuela. But they have witnessed an amazing revolutionary process, full of pitfalls and problems, yet steadingly moving toward greater power and justice for the country's vast poor and disenfranchised.

Venezuela, we should remember, is an oil-rich country that also has some deep poverty. In Caracas, home to more than 3 million people, the hills are dotted with the makeshift housing of the poor exactly like those of the favelas in Brazil (although in Venezuela they are called "ranchitos").

However, as Tomi points out, the rich for decades used the oil as a kind of ATM--they pulled out profits from this resource for their own enrichment. Now that the Bolivarian Socialist government has taken over the oil industry, the poor people for the first time received electricity (something that caused an uproar among the upper classes); they have free and comprehensive health care right in their neighborhoods; they have free access to technology and computers, including the Internet, again in their neighborhoods; there are now 50,000 cooperatives in existence, most created over the last three years, and the highest number of cooperatives in the world; and people have in Hugo Chavez an African/Native man who is working on placing more power in their hands--a people made up mostly of African, Native and Spanish descent.

I'm not quoting from propaganda pieces--I've seen this with my own eyes.

The majority of the opposition to Chavez and the Reform comes from the richest communities. They are mostly the white Spanish-descended landlords, owners of industries, and financiers who continue to live well in the country. What you see in Venezuela is class struggle. I call things as I see them, and this may surprise many who read this. But history is much at play in Venezuela, which has its own history of how power and wealth got accumulated into the hands of a small grouping of people, and denied from the vast majority.

The US government decries Chavez and calls his government a dictatorship. However, Chavez was freely elected. His government continues to present to the governing assembly and to the people its proposals for their approval. In fact, the Reform is being campaigned for--the election is slated for December 2 and people will have a choice. If they don't want the Reform, they can vote against it. If the majority wins, this will be the law of the land. That's democracy.

In the Opinion section of the LA Times, Saturday, November 24, 2007, William Ratliff, who is supposed to be a learned intellectual, a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, claims that the 69 constitutional amendments in the Reform will most likely pass, and that the Venezuelans are fools for doing this.

They are no fools. They are one of the most intelligent, engaged and feisty electorate you'll ever find (I truly don't believe Mr. Ratliff has gone down there to find out). They want change, and for now Chavez represents that change.

Ratliff says, "the vote will be bad not only for Venezuela but for the rest of Latin America." Why? Isn't that what democracy is all about? If there are truly open elections that's good for Latin America where such elections in the past have been fraudulent, violent and un-democratic (especially in countries that the US government has backed). Ratliff also calls this a "populist dictatorship." A contradiction in terms. If the majority of people want it that's their choice. And their right.

Ratliff also misrepresents the Reform. He says the new amendments would allow Hugo Chavez to be "president for life." In fact, it would allow him and any other candidate to run indefinitely, but the people will still have to choose their president. He calls the probable support of the Reform on December 2 "self destructive voting." You mean like the last two presidential elections in which George Bush won. That is definitely self-destructive. In fact, the US democratic process is one of the most cumbership, complicated, money-driven, and wholly undemocratic in the world. Maybe Venezuela can show the world how it's done.

For this Reform is not just an election. It's part of a revolution.

Now, for me, any real revolution is about healing. It has to heal centuries of injustices, including against the indigenous and African peoples, and decades of control of the major industry and resources by a small number of families. It has to heal the exploitation of the poor and the uneducated. It has to open the schools, the factories, the housing, and the land's bounty to ALL the people. This is what the rich opposition is against--they want this control for themselves.

Tomi and Johnny are two of the many people in Venezuela who see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the past, any people who tried to find their own revolutionary path--such as Cuba, Nicaragua or Chile under Salvador Allende--have been targeted, attacked and blockaded by the United States government. The US government ended up overthrowing progressive governments (with no elections) in Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and other countries. Is it possibe the US will do the same in Venezuela?

Progressives, revolutionaries, activists, and lovers of justice & peace must organize against any such actions by the US government. But more importantly, we must envision and organize for a world in which real healing, real cultural expression and real dignified work, housing and life can be had by all, including in our own class-burdened society.

That's what is at stake in Venezuela. Let the people decide, the people who will actually be most affected by this process. The US can't even guarantee real democracy and justice within it's own borders, let alone in the world. It can't even tell the truth about what's going on.

Most Americans may be scared, pulled around by inaccurate information, and lied to. But the truth will out--I've seen Venezuela. And there is something truly alive and promising there. I've also seen the poor countries of Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and Peru. And I'm here to tell you--Venezuela is better off going its own way, away from US capitalist interests and control, away from the rich and greedy in Venezuela who'd love the US to dictate what happens in that country. These rich and greedy don't want full democracy--they want the phony democracy in which money and power rules.

Healing, however, is a deep and long process. Let it go where it has to go. What's the alternative but civil unrest, massacres, death squads, and increased poverty that the US contributed in places like Central America. No more. Venezuela must go its own way.


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