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?


troutsky said...

You are spot on about the "essential" nature of this basic duality, one is either optimistic or pessimistic about the ability of the species to advance.Christian dogma with its concept of original sin is the obvious negative view,and the most prevelant one I run up against.It is the "human nature" argument.Marx tried to avert it with a scientific approach and dialectical method but we know that also has limitations and the Utopian approach has its share of valid criticism.In the final analysis it seems compassion requires hope and that hope is more a feedback loop doing something like teaching children (like you)than for people caught in the dog eat dog jungle of market existence.The material comforts mask but don't dissolve the alienation most people experience.

I got in an argument at the Eagles Club yesterday while watching football.Some guy starts in about "niggers" assuming we are all rednecks and I give him a little shock therapy from the far left,knowing of course the confrontation itself wouldnt immediately affect his views( two tours of duty in VietNam and years of Rush Limbaugh had done some deep damage)but this is something I have been experimenting with,being polite and asking questions,(Socratic style) and letting people reason there way right into the deadends and contradictions of conservative ideology.I try to end with a handshake and a "thanks for the discussion" and hope that Freire is right and he is thinking about out debate today.When they accuse me of being a liberal(a la Hannity)Ill say oh no,Im a socialist, to really give them something to think about although in other situations Ill stay away from that loaded" label.

We should figure out some forum to better inform our community about events in Latin America,the good the bad and the "we-dont-know -yet".Char and I have decided to go to Venezuela for research ,either a Feb.Witness trip or an April Global Exchange trip where I want to get some film,tapes,stories etc? to extend this project.What else? Do you want to try the Free School thing? Films and discussion? I especially appreciated your approach with Cuba presentation of explaining the "lens" through which we all see things,I think by honestly laying out ones politics with all the caveats that implies and "trusting" the people we can be successful in outreach even if the project is radical.

Can we work with the language and stay true to our tradition and ideology, talk about Another World and Bolivarian principles and Socialism for the 21st Century and be coherent? Damn skippy!

PS Check out the if you are up for a little politicaleconomic theory, Id be curious about your take.

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