Saturday, December 17, 2005
Venezuela, Bolivarian Revolution, and Chavez
"The trust of the people in their leaders reflects the trust the leaders have in the people." --Paulo Freire
The social improvements made in Venezuela over the last six years need to be thoroughly investigated and then appropriately recognized. Bringing more attention to the achievements of this "socialist" revolution are essential for the greater struggle for social justice in our world. It is easy to be cynical about the usually predictable reaction many Americans have towards socialism. For instance, most can't accept fact that "socialism" is capable of rewarding the widest section of any society with more equality, freedom and dignity than capitalism. (Furthermore, the material comforts that Americans have experienced through the capitalism of the U.S. has always come at a very high cost for masses of people who are intentionally obscured without a voice). However, I have also found that many non-socialist Americans are presently poised to listen because of growing dissatisfaction, the relentless campaigns of socialists around the world, and the shining examples being provided in countries such as Venezuela and Cuba. Many Americans are so disaffected by the politics and economic reality within the U.S. that such a discussion at this point in time is more possible than usual. In order to help translate the outrage masses of Americans feel towards the reality that they can't get basic health care, a dignifying job with a dignifying wage, etc., revolutionary leaders and educators must begin with what Paulo Freire describes as an essential faith that people will sense their oppression and work to overthrow it. Such faith is "essential" since most people will live up to the expectations the leaders have of them. Freire said that we must help people understand that their "ontological vocation is to become more fully human," but the first step is to exhibit a faith in people that they are capable of realizing such an existence. Finally, the quesiton remains as to how to counter the negative propaganda that Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution face in order to amplify the message of positive gains being made by --gasp-- socialism! How do we get those Americans that are "too" comfortable to listen?
While it may be more effective to relate working class struggles here to the improved dignity experienced by peasants and working class of Venezuela, what issues are the middle class of the U.S. likely to be sensitive to in order to improve their hearing? I recently got into a discussion with a teacher from a very conservative area of Montana that began as a discussion of the overly-punitive nature of our schools and led to a full-blown discussion of Socialism. What I found was that this teacher was very intrigued and inquisitive about alternatives to tried, tested and failed attempts of market principles to solve the problems of equality in the U.S. What else can revolutionary leaders do to improve their chances of reaching out to more people? Interestingly enough, I have found that my family is the most difficult set of people to communicate these seemingly obvious facts about socialism to despite their own tendency towards socialist thinking.
Is it easier to get people to listen to the concrete examples emerging from Venezuela and be sensitive to the overuse of terms such as socialism bearing in mind the conditioning most Americans have towards "socialism"? That is, should we let Venezuela, Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution's positive gains speak for themselves and then set the hook that what is happening down there is socialist? As an educator, finding points of access to my students is as important as any information and evidence I have compiled. I find this access through listening which is not always easy in public education that demands so much rote assessment. But I tend to agree with Freire that as my faith in my students wanes, so does their faith that they can change anything in their future. The result is inevitably that they stop caring.
How do we talk about the growing socialist movements of the world? What else beyond maintaining faith in people would Paulo Freire have to say?