El Libertario: beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’

by George Ciccariello-Maher on March 28, 2014

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Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name. Before expressing our solidarity, we should be clear who it is we are supporting.

When it comes to the Venezuelan protests of recent weeks and months, misinformation reigns supreme. Just as liberals and progressives have been misled by desperate hashtags like #SOSVenezuela and simplistic comparisons to Occupy, so too has the radical left been tempted by the some self-described Venezuelan anarchists, and El Libertario in particular.

This is not a critique of anarchism in general or even of all Venezuelan anarchists (I will discuss others below). I have always been very close to the anarchist milieu and, while frustrated by certain anarchist blindspots, I am influenced by anarchism as a doctrine of revolutionary struggle that understands the inherent contradictions of the state. The liberal, middle-class anarchism of El Libertario, however, represents not the fulfillment but the betrayal of this revolutionary anarchist vision. Condescending toward the poor and utterly absent from concrete struggles, it has instead allied itself—as it does today—with reactionary elite movements.

In a recent piece published in English both by Libcom.org and ROAR Magazine, El Libertario figurehead Rafael Uzcátegui (not to be confused with the former guerrilla of the same name), put forth a highly misleading but also revealing account of the recent protests to provide an “anarchist perspective” for the “poorly informed.” Unfortunately, the piece leaves us even more poorly informed than before, and lacks any anarchist perspective whatsoever. (While this is not the time to fully dissect Uzcátegui’s book, translated into English as Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, let’s just say that—as the title suggests—it’s more Debord than Magón or Bakunin.)

What is misleading is that Uzcátegui repeats mainstream misrepresentations of how the protests started, claiming police repression when the police only acted in response to a February 6th attack on the governor of Táchira’s house. He uncritically reports arrests and torture allegations, despite the fact that most of these were never actually reported to the competent agencies, and some are under investigation. While rightly mentioning the role of intelligence officials in deaths of both protesters and Chavistas on February 12th, he fails to mention that the officers responsible were promptly arrested and charged (the number of officials arrested for excessive force has now reached 17).

He invokes a common refrain that there is no press freedom in Venezuela while noting that it was the most important Venezuelan newspaper, Últimas Noticias (which is sympathetic to the government) that released a crucial video investigation showing the actions of security officials on February 12th. He critiques president Nicolás Maduro’s suggestion that a coup plot similar to the one that briefly overthrew Hugo Chávez in 2002 might be in the works, but leaves out El Libertario’s own ambivalence toward that coup when it happened (see below).

What is revealing, however, is the fact that Uzcátegui positions El Libertario as “simple spectators” and condescendingly blames “low levels of political culture” for the absence of a truly independent left. For anyone who has spent even a week in Venezuela, and especially for those of us from the US who have lived there extensively, this last statement is utterly incomprehensible, since the political culture of Venezuela, the constant flurry of vibrant critical revolutionary activity, is at times overwhelming. But this, alongside Uzcátegui’s demonization of popular revolutionary organizations (colectivos) as “militia groups” speaks volumes about El Libertario’s opposition to popular struggles and the self-activity of the poorest Venezuelans and support for middle-class notions of social change that are ultimately complicit with the right.

Who Are El Libertario?

1. A middle-class organization…

As one former member puts it, El Libertario’s constituency and membership consists of “total upper-class snobs (sifrinos), unos hijitos de papá, pampered rich kids.” Uzcátegui himself comes from a family with money and became even more “gentrified through student politics in the university.” (Uzcátegui has even worked a day job under the former mayor of Baruta in wealthy eastern Caracas, none other than right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles, formerly of the US-funded opposition party Primero Justicia). Origin is not a curse, however, and many a revolutionary has committed “class suicide” to join the struggle—not so for El Libertario.

2. … with liberal, middle-class politics…

In the words of a former member, El Libertario “operates more like an NGO than a group, it’s not a grassroots movement,” and this should be no surprise since members have close relations to liberal human rights NGOs like PROVEA, where Uzcátegui works. Whereas revolutionaries worldwide have become increasingly aware of the limitations and even dangers of human rights discourse—which in recent years has been strategically co-opted by right-wing forces worldwide—El Libertario has seemingly moved in the opposite direction. All of which raises an interesting question for self-professed “anarchists”: when the all-out class war comes, will El Libertario be there to defend the human rights of our enemies? This is not to celebrate repression: I have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, attacked with concussion grenades, arrested, and assaulted by police—but I have never heard this described as a “human rights violation.”

Inherent limitations of human rights discourse aside, Uzcátegui and PROVEA have gone further in recent weeks by circulating one-sided denunciations of the Maduro government that make no mention of the many deaths at the hands of the opposition protesters. You would have no idea that two motorcyclists had been decapitated by barbed wire seemingly hung for that purpose, or that bystanders had been attacked and even killed when crossing barricades to get to work. Thankfully, a number of human rights defenders—some formerly working with PROVEA and Amnesty International—have recently denounced this manipulative use of human rights discourse.

3. … that upholds middle-class leadership…

Even more astonishingly, in a country in which the poor majority—both the traditional working class and the informal sector—have become increasingly organized and revolutionary, Rodolfo Montes de Oca from El Libertario even openly supports the idea that it is the middle class that should lead the struggle. In an article replete with the obligatory references to “counter-power” and citations of Graeber and Holloway, we find the astounding suggestion that it is “the college-educated middle class, and perhaps owners of small means of production and service providers, who are the best suited to assume leadership within emerging organizations and social movements, since their basic necessities are covered and their autonomy won’t be put at risk [hipotecada].”

Montes’ choice of words is revealing, as hipotecada refers literally to mortgages, implying that the poor will simply sell their political loyalties to the highest bidder. In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt argued that the French Revolution was doomed by “necessity and poverty” because its supporters were drawn from “the multitude of the poor.” Here we have so-called “anarchists” trotting out the same tired argument: the poor, it seems, can’t be trusted to lead their own social struggles, since their empty stomachs will only get in the way. El Libertario aspires to be, in the words of one critic, “The boss in the workplace and the boss in the revolution.”

4. … and is absent from popular struggles…

As a result of this middle-class composition, liberal middle-class ideology, and emphasis on middle-class leadership, it is little surprise that El Libertario would be absent from popular grassroots struggles and allied instead with the more middle-class struggles of increasingly conservative students in elite and private universities. In the words of a former member, El Libertario “has never had a presence in the barrio,” and when small projects were attempted in the past, their vanguardist method of work—in which they sought to enlighten the poor—was “self-isolating” in practice. Other Venezuelan anarchists similarly insist that El Libertario is “never seen by communities in struggle.” Even El Libertario sympathizers have observed that “they have only the most marginal presence in many key sectors of social struggle,” a characterization which fits Uzcátegui’s admission that they are “simple spectators.”

For example, when revolutionary organizations engaged in direct action in 2004, tearing down a statue of Columbus in Plaza Venezuela in the name of decolonization, some were arrested and Chávez denounced the organizers as “anarchists.” Rather than participating in the action or showing solidarity with those arrested, El Libertario instead chose to mock the action as somehow—here revealing their longstanding obsession—simply a spectacle, and blamed those arrested for naively presuming the government would support them. In the complex dialectic of the revolutionary process, it’s worth pointing out that despite Chávez’s initial denunciation, these and other radical direct actions pushed the Bolivarian government toward emphasizing indigenous genocide and eventually declaring October 12th the “Day of Indigenous Resistance.”

After a similarly combative action on the anniversary of the Caracazo in 2008 which Chávez similarly criticized as “anarchistic,” again El Libertario did not express solidarity but instead issued a statement insisting that Chávez did not know what the word meant. According to participants, he had evidently “touched their sacred word,” and they couldn’t allow anyone else to be accused of anarchism, and so they misrepresented the slogan of the action—“we don’t want them to govern us: we want to govern”—as simply a demand for state power.

5. … and more likely to join forces with the right…

The list goes on and on: while revolutionaries (who supported Chávez) were repressed by the National Guard while participating in a 2008 caravan to support indigenous Yukpa rights, El Libertario was nowhere to be seen (despite paying lip service to the Yukpa struggle), but was instead in the streets with middle-class students, defending the right-wing TV station RCTV. This all points to a troubling trend: instead of submerging themselves in revolutionary popular struggles, El Libertario has moved increasingly toward student struggles that tend toward the right. This trend has only been confirmed in recent weeks, as members of El Libertario have openly celebrated the middle-class and largely right-wing protest movement. Uzcátegui has even gone so far—according to his tweets—as to mistake this middle-class crowd (which other “libertarians” argue is hegemonically fascist) for the networked multitude, thereby committing the cardinal error of forgetting that for old Antonio Negri, the multitude is above all a “class concept.”

6. … due to a caricatured “three-way fight” politics…

El Libertario like to position themselves as being equally opposed to both Chavismo and the right. While this invokes in some ways the “three-way fight” logic in the form of the lucha tripolar, or “tripolar struggle”, it is in a brutally caricatured form (although, let’s be real, three-way fight is capable of its own ridiculous caricature). This was as clear during the right-wing coup of April 2002 as it is today: confronted with a coup that removed not only Chávez but also the progressive 1999 Constitution, and which left dozens dead in the streets before it was reversed through popular mass rebellion, El Libertario again stood on the sidelines, unwilling to even condemn this quasi-fascist assault on the people. (Issues 26 and 27 of El Libertario, published around the time of the coup, are conveniently missing from the web archive, but I have myself interviewed former members who left El Libertario after it took this “reactionary position”).

7. … making any mass-revolutionary outlook impossible.

Uzcátegui insists that “The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (anarchists, sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara)” are “simple spectators”—but what about revolutionary socialists like the Marea Socialista current? What about revolutionary anarchist-libertarian militants like Roland Denis, who rather than admiring the networked creativity of these protesters urges us instead to take radical measures to “deactivate fascism”? And what about revolutionary Guevaraists like the new Bolivarian-Guevaraist Current or the La Piedrita Collective, one of those popular collectives that Uzcátegui smears as a blindly Chavista militia, despite the fact that they predated Chávez by decades and frequently clashed with the government in practice.

Rather than humbly seeking a basis in mass work, El Libertario condescendingly insists that if the masses don’t join them, so much the worse for the masses. Accordingly, it smears those who disagree as oficialistas, supporters of the government, in an attempt to erase the very real history of revolutionary autonomy within the Bolivarian movement. Thus while El Libertario parrots tired mantras of the opposition that there is no press freedom in Venezuela (which is a blatant lie, incidentally), it ignores the flourishing of popular grassroots media in recent years, as well as the fact that revolutionaries were demanding that media be “neither private nor state-run.” Anyone who happens to also support the Bolivarian process, or to see it as worth defending despite its limitations and defects, is according to El Libertario a sell-out and a pawn.

But this view is not revolutionary and certainly not anarchist. Any anarchist revolution will be a mass, class-based phenomenon or it will be nothing at all. This doesn’t mean that anarchists and anti-authoritarians should simply uncritically toe the Chavista line, but instead engage directly in building revolutionary movements, spaces, and ruptures within and against the mainstream of the Bolivarian movement, as thousands of Venezuelan revolutionaries have been doing for years if not decades.

Will the Real Anarchists Please Stand Up?

While capital-A anarchism has never been a major force in Venezuela, the liberal anarchism of El Libertario does not enjoy the monopoly on the term that it would like you to believe. A good example was the Revolutionary Anarchist Federation of Venezuela (FARV), which unfortunately dissolved last year. The FARV represented the voice of revolutionary, decolonial, class-struggle anarchism in Venezuela, but like most non-middle-class movements, this was not a voice that was amplified by translated books or US speaking tours, and so I will quote at length from the FARV to compensate.

In a 2012 article, Luis from the FARV provided an exhaustive analysis of the “absurdities of El Libertario” and, rejecting El Libertario’s attempts to “hoard” and “monopolize” the name anarchism, sketched the parameters for a truly revolutionary anarchist alternative. This alternative sets out from a firm rejection of the middle-class ideology and leadership that defines El Libertario. Noting that “we have always been under the leadership of the privileged classes,” the FARV insists that to uphold middle-class leadership is to maintain the traditional reproduction of the system whereby academic institutions legitimate those “predestined to guide the country… this is exactly the same as the opposition discourse that speaks of a so-called meritocracy, loaded with racism, classism, liberalism, colonialism, and fascism.”

Further, suggesting that those possessing the means of production are rightful movement leaders is to “validate exploitation, difference, and privileges rather than combating them, which we understand to be the reason we are anarchists to begin with… Proudhon cried ‘property is theft,’ and so that small property… is therefore a small theft, a small parasitic action.” Worst of all, to openly celebrate middle-class origins by embracing middle-class politics is to contribute to discrediting of anarchism itself by reinforcing the oldest caricature of anarchism in the books, “sustain[ing] the fallacies Bolsheviks have woven about anarchism… that anarchism is a petit-bourgeois ideology.” For the FARV,

The anarcho-liberals [of El Libertario] are part of the middle class and proud of it, so we know that they will never work against their own interests… [But] fortunately, the popular movement doesn’t let anyone act in its name, much less the middle class. Fortunately, social movements are not the same as the popular movement. Fortunately, the popular movement continues to advance toward collective forms of leadership.

The correct position toward these popular movements is not of course the passivity of “simple spectators” as Uzcátegui would have it, and the FARV rejects the three-way fight insofar as it represents “the posture of the ‘enlightened third way’… which does not participate in struggles but only watches, criticizes, and pretends to give the orders because it believes it possesses a luminous truth. An arrogant and authoritarian ‘anarchism’ that we do not share.”

The FARV “expresses ourselves from the position of concrete popular struggles. It is from this difference that all other differences stem.” They spread libertarian ideas “not only with the word, but with everyday constructive action alongside the children of the people. With humility and as equals, since there is much we have to learn from communities in struggle.” As the FARV recognized in a 2012 communiqué, to position oneself alongside concrete communities in struggle is not to oppose the Bolivarian process—understood as something that began long before Chávez and will continue long after him—but to embrace aspects of it while pressing it in ever more revolutionary directions:

Our struggle is for libertarian communism, and so we are not willing to go back to a ‘state of affairs’ in which: we will be persecuted, where alternative media will be closed, where lands and businesses today under communal control will be returned to large landholders and businessmen, where there will be systematic violations of human rights, where the juridical instruments that can help the popular cause [i.e., the 1999 Constitution] and the future construction of truly horizontal and assembly-based communal spaces will disappear… to regress to a past that, scarcely concealed, awaits a fascist backlash.

Instead, from this position in concrete popular struggles, the FARV embraces a different sort of three-way fight:

We are equally against those supposedly ‘leftist’ positions that want us to believe that ‘this is more of the same’ as we are against those top-down accommodationists who insist that ‘this is a true revolution’… and even more certain ‘personalities’ who take refuge in anarchist ideas (and certain Trotskyist positions) to cover up the fact that they speak from a bourgeois perspective, and thereby to invisibilize struggles and processes of change… We also say to these anarchists-turned-hucksters, commercializers and tourists of ideas, that fascism shall not pass.

This does not mean that the state is not powerfully dangerous and contradictory, of course: according to the FARV, “no state is revolutionary,” but “as anarchists we know that this process… is constituted as a collective and common task of the Venezuelan people, and therefore that the conditions of possibility today posed by connecting tactically to the Bolivarian state must not be abandoned.” Anarchism can only be built through the collective struggle of the masses, and for reasons both defensive (avoiding repression) and offensive (laying claim to new spaces opened by the process), this mass struggle emerges through the Bolivarian process (although in a tense and often conflictive relation to the government).

This means resisting the automatic solidarities and stifling confines of a capital-A anarchism that limits itself to those self-described anarchists:

In the present moment there exist many examples of spaces that, while not defining themselves as anarchist, are nevertheless engaged in everyday libertarian practices: communities that possess a certain degree of social production, self-government, and self-defense… [like] Collectives in 23 de Enero, Alexis Vive Collective, Montaraz Collective, among others.

El Libertario, faithful to their class background and class politics, “are more afraid of Chavismo and the revolution than fascism, the oligarchy, and the Venezuelan right-wing, with which they gladly march.” So it is no surprise that these collectives celebrated by the FARV for their tacitly anarchist activity are the very same collectives that are today demonized by a fearful bourgeoisie as well as their anarchist collaborators who mimic elites in their denunciation of “militia groups.”

The FARV’s reply to El Libertario’s strange right-wing bedfellows is blunt:

No, we have nothing in common with the bourgeoisie. El Libertario and the FARV are not the same thing. It is very different to say ‘social movements’ (meaning NGOs and foundations) vs. ‘popular movement’ (collectives and working groups, campesino fronts, land occupation movements, indigenous movements, health committees, land committees, etc). Bakunin is right, the middle class is one thing, with its aspirations and conceits; the children of the people with their struggles, dreams, and victories are another thing entirely… As children of the people we don’t hope for anything of the middle class, and much less its leadership… We choose not to be on the side of a class that fears the revolution…

We prefer instead to be with the popular movement, with its rebellious, disobedient, and ungovernable temperament; with its self-managed experiments, with its steps toward socialism, with its libertarian yearnings and its anarchist intuition… we need to look for [this anarchist impulse]—not in the middle class, not in the communiqués of the bourgeoisie, not on the internet or in the official speeches of university professors, not on television or in Chávez’s statements or actions, but in the barrios, in the communities in struggle, at the heart of the popular movement.

In We Created Chávez, I wrote that “Far too often, discussions of contemporary Venezuela revolve around the figure of the Venezuelan president. Whether from opponents on the conservative right or the anarchist left or supporters in between, the myopia is the same.” Similarly, the FARV argue that:

The acolytes of Chávez-centrism, whether Chavistas or from the opposition, share the determination to circumscribe everything in the figure of Chávez, either by denying the accomplishments of the Bolivarian process and saying that everything bad is due to the zambo of their nightmares, or by fomenting the idea that these accomplishments are the gifts of power or the result of Chávez’s benevolence.

We, on the other hand, consider these accomplishments to be the product of the historic struggles of the popular movement, which have cost us and continue to cost us blood and sacrifice… Although El Libertario, along with the right-wing opposition and the red [Chavista] bureaucracy attempt to erase all traces of the autonomy of popular action, we the children of the people will continue organizing, they will hear our voices more often and will have to get used to seeing our faces.

Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name, and before revolutionaries in the U.S. or elsewhere re-post articles, translate books, or organize speaking tours, we should be clear what it is we are supporting. Especially in Latin America, moreover, we must be attentive to the thousands engaged in revolutionary anti-state activity that don’t even call themselves “anarchists.” To support middle-class, liberal anarchists like El Libertario is to be against the revolution, against concrete popular struggles of the Venezuelan poor, and even against anarchism itself.

George Ciccariello-Maher is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, 2013).

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen March 28, 2014 at 23:08

Ciccariello-Maher hasn’t even addressed the main claim of Uzcategui’s article, which is that in the interior of the country, popular sectors are protesting due to lack of basic services, inflation and unemployment. This seems mainly ad hominem name-calling (El Libertario is middle-class!), and referring to a different article by someone who is not Uzcategui, which apparently calls for middle-class leadership, doesn’t really settle the issue of what these protests are. Also, dismissing reports of arrests and torture because they weren’t “reported to the competent agencies” is rather pathetic. Whatever you think about the protests, it seems obvious the Venezuelan government is repressing them harshly.

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Mastro March 29, 2014 at 02:23

This is an appalling article, full of inaccuracies and misinformation. It is obvious that ROARMAG has lost its actual revolutionary significance. It has lost all its revolutionary character and embraced this kind of left-wing social democratic anti-western perspective. Once used to support horizontal direct action, now has become a platform for left-wing populism, speaking in favour of the ultra-authoritarian Chavistas who are among the best in reproducing the middle class bourgeoisie Venezuelan nationalism (no to mention that Chavez is an admirer of Bolivar whose main influences was Adam Smith).

Bye bye ROARMAG forever.

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Jerome Roos March 29, 2014 at 13:50

I’m sorry we don’t chew your breakfast for you by publishing only those pieces that fit your narrow-minded view of the world. We expect our readers to be smart enough to make up their own minds on the basis of sometimes conflicting information and interpretations (which is why we published the El Libertario piece in the first place, and which is why we obviously won’t even consider censoring a submission from a Venezuela scholar in response to that piece). If you can’t engage with arguments you disagree with — for instance by trying to rebuke them with some arguments of your own — and prefer instead to turn your back on anyone who actually has the guts to facilitate such debate and publish conflicting accounts, then I’m sorry to say that your “revolutionary” struggle is doomed to fail. Sectarianism will be the end of it.

Besides, please, if you’re serious, try to answer this question: who is the main proponent of horizontal direct action in Venezuela today? The protesting right-wing middle and upper classes (with whom El Libertario seems to have aligned itself), or the poor Venezuelan communities that oppose these opposition protests with communal councils and direct democratic experiments of their own? ROAR’s editorial line is clear — always has been — and it hasn’t changed in any fundamental way. We are no Chavistas, we distrust the capitalist state and despise bureaucratic socialism, but we do stand in solidarity with Venezuela’s poor in their revolutionary struggle against neoliberalism and beyond Chavismo. Many poor Venezuelans (whose direct action credentials are far greater than our own) have chosen to support the Bolivarian process in spite (and in full awareness) of its many flaws. Just because this contradictory process, which actually predated Chavez, ended up giving rise to a state capitalist regime that brandishes populist rhetoric in an attempt to co-opt these grassroots movements in typical top-down fashion, doesn’t mean we should ignore the everyday struggles of ordinary Venezuelans in the name of some pretentious and ultimately false “horizontal” puritanism.

The bottom-line is this: you don’t win a revolutionary struggle by copping out the moment that some elements within the movement seek to monopolize the revolution by taking state power. Only by pushing on in a conflictive relationship with the state while exploiting the progressive elements within that state to defend the victories that have already been won in direct struggles against the right-wing bourgeoisie (the land expropriations, the worker-run cooperatives, the communal councils, etc.) can you begin to move beyond this populist state capitalism and really start developing the kind of direct democracy, grassroots socialism or libertarian communism that many of us are dreaming of. But if you choose to bail out at the first sign of disagreement, you effectively give in and allow the monopolizing elements within the movement (in this case the Chavistas) to have the last say. Needless to say, such sectarian self-isolation ultimately only benefits our real enemy.

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Mouth Piece March 30, 2014 at 02:57

Jerome, seems you sway any way the wind pushes you. Do you think you are going to get unbiased analysis by a chavista like GCM?

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Jerome Roos March 30, 2014 at 03:15

I don’t believe in “unbiased analysis” — it’s a contradiction in terms. I believe in opinionated analysis and fierce debate. Tell me, though, when or where did I sway in my own standpoint on this issue? As an author I’ve made my own position more than clear. As an editor, I merely try to facilitate a debate between seemingly unbridgeable points of view, encouraging readers to make up their own minds in the process.

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Mouth Piece March 31, 2014 at 18:38

But isn’t this what you are attempting to create by publishing GCM’s hit piece, therefore giving the impression that this is an unbiased space? The pro-Maduro state-capitalist camp has plenty of muscle to publish their propaganda, why provide them space on this “grassroots journal”?

I believe you buckled after the barrage of pr0-Chavez comments on Uzcategi’s original article, and judging by your own comment “The protesting right-wing middle and upper classes (with whom El Libertario seems to have aligned itself)” you are taking the mainstream “left position” and disparaging an anarchist outfit that was around before the so called “Bolivarian” revolution and that takes a stance against police brutality and state-capitalism.

What’s even more infuriating is that you as an editor published a hit piece that focuses on Uzacategi and dodges some of the main criticisms that El Libertario and company are making.

Mastro April 1, 2014 at 00:05

I used to like Roarmag in the beginning. Now it says nothing to me. I think it’s better to shut it down. Just only keep it as a file.

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Saut Situmorang March 30, 2014 at 19:44

Bye! See you in the White House, then! :p

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James March 29, 2014 at 07:49

Karen I have to wonder if you even read the article. Popular sectors are not protesting. It has been middle and upper classes closing streets preventing people from going to work, which according to you is protest unemployment. I somehow fail to see the brilliance of this strategy.

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Elias (Venezuela) March 29, 2014 at 19:50

¿Popular sectors are not protesting? FLY http://lapatilla.com/site/2014/03/2…

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ghostbar March 30, 2014 at 04:29

Hi James,

What’s a popular sector? The common people. The common people earns about Bs 3k monthly, because that’s the minimum wage. Buying the basic food basket — and I repeat, basic — costs about Bs 7k according to the National Statistics Institute. We are talking about numbers given by a govt-owned institute.

My friends: engineers, nurses, architects, public accountants, make about Bs 5k monthly. Those are considered “middle-class”. This “middle-class” guys that work and have earned an university title have to live with their parents, family or friends because it’s not only hard to find rent but when you find them you can’t pay them. Renting an apartment costs about Bs20k monthly plus the deposit. And you can get one if the contract gets signed by a company, you can’t sign as an individual.

Housing gives the same with those salaries, you can’t even make it to end of month just buying food. (This is funny, on the WaPost criticized Juan Requesens, the student leader, cause he lives with his parents. Obviously the author thought living in Venezuela is just like living in the US. Hope is not your case and if it’s then there’s the aclaration). So what they call middle-class sectors were middle-class when they got to power, around 1998, 16 years ago. Right now they can’t count as middle-class when their salary is not even enough for getting all they need from the supermarket (which is not like they are gonna find them, anyway)

I have moved a lot in Venezuela in these 45 days and my safehouses have been always in popular zones. At Barquisimeto I stayed at “Los Crepúsculos” which is the west-far zone in the city and is next to the third Industrial Zone (you can Google it, you will see the bunch of “Ranchos” that’s Los Crepúsculos, a poor zone of the city). Turns out protests bursted at 5-6PM everyday, when people arrived home from their works. As soon as they started hitting their caceroles as a protest sign groups called UBCH (Unidad de Batalla Chavista or Chavists Battle-Units) came out in motorcycles triggering their guns and getting people inside their homes. That’s not “popular sectors are not protesting” is people’s afraid of protesting because the paramilitia UBCHs are keeping them inside their houses with coertion.

And what happens when you come out anyway? What happened at El Cují and Palamia in Maracaibo: UBCHs got inside their houses, burned their cars, stole their houses, tried to rape their women and threathen them with death.

It’s the same thing in San Cristóbal, which BTW is my hometown. Saying there’s upper-class in San Cristóbal is non-sense and ridiculous. My city has been victim of kidnapping and extortion for over a decade caused by the lack of control from the army in the border with Colombia. There are colombian paramilitia and colombian guerrilla everywhere doing what they want. Tachira and Apure is their holiday retreat. That made all the upper-class dissapear, relocating them to norther states for security reasons or just leaving the country. They have been with shortage of everything for about 6 years already. SIX YEARS. Their street closing is everywhere in the city, there’s no class separation as most people try to show, specially in San Cristóbal where low and “middle-class” zones are all mixed together and the full city is in uprise. (Which actually got attacked tonight, policemen destroyed houses and cars from the Pirineos zone which combines about a hundred middle-class houses with thousands of apartments given by govts from before Chávez, around the 80′s for people of lower income. Go figure that middle and upper-class base of demonstrators)

Their strategy in San Cristóbal and Mérida is to protect themselves from the attacks from paramilitia UBCHs. At Barrio Sucre in San Cristóbal the paramilitia killed a bus-driver (go figure that level of middle and upper class demonstrators) and wounded 2 more; but the paramilitia couldn’t hit more because the barricades didn’t allow them to come further. These barricades are huge and composed of all kind of garbage they can find. Very different to “barricades” in Caracas for example, that are built at the moment some security force is attacking any demonstrators group in the zone and is composed of plastic bags of garbage.

There’s no class struggle here in Venezuela and that’s shown in the public autonomous universities of the country (which before saying they exist thanks to Chávez, the University of Los Andes got founded in 1785, and my university UNET got founded in the 70′s and was already public and free) where you can see no difference of classes and there’s lower, middle and upper class students, indistinctly.

Actually, there can’t be such class struggle when neither low nor middle class can make it to end of month.

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Lucas March 30, 2014 at 17:55

class struggle isn’t about low classes vs middle classes. It’s about workers vs technocrats/owners. Today’s middle classe all around the world works for a wage, they are the specialized sector of the working class, “middle class” represents just an old ideology that tries to differentiate them from the rest of the working class, i.e. people who don’t own more than it’s working force and have to sell it to get income. They are all subject (low and middle classes) to the power of capital and their technocrat representatives.

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Nemo March 31, 2014 at 00:57

Actually this is a very bad article, and I say it as a crtc oof l Librtario myself, from Argentina. I have seen their somewhat somtims liberal analysis, howevr this article givs complet rason to ”El Librtario” Citique of chavismo as rvolution only n spectacle, its gratest achivmnts being measured here in declaring ”day of idigenous resistanc” (while arrsting and repressing indigenoous people) and that all polic brutalty is countred by 17 (17!!!) investigations of individuals which are as phony as any on USA. The vnzuelann socialism does ot evenn xist, as they have created china style special economic zones and thy still have full private proprty, class, burguois fake dmocracy, forign corporations and sll all their oil to the USA.
THis is an uncritical acclaim of Maduro based purly on phoy simbolism and has nno critiqu at all othr than ”we are stll anti authoritharian derp” while actually defnding the govrnmnt on all accounts and wth ridiculous idealistic argumnts and misrepresentation.

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melanyyustiz March 29, 2014 at 10:08

Dankt dit is de waarheid. Aan op Twitter.

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Anarchoi March 29, 2014 at 14:33

Compliments. We pay good police Maduro for write falsehood ‘.
(A)

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Lucas March 29, 2014 at 18:24

I salute the exercize of criticism and indeed as a non-Venezuelan reader of El Libertario’s blog I can surely find some wierd things among their blog’s material, including articles tending to anarco-capitalism or just plain “middle class punk-anarchism”. However this does not sum up all of El Libertario’s contribution. The amount of socialists in America Latina who support chavismo without a single drop of critic is HUGE and for this alone El Libertario has been an important source of information for those who wish to see things different from what the “progressist alliance” has been propagating about Venezuela (including the government of Brasil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, probably now Chile…)

Another thing is that recently they engaged on the Encuentro Sindical y Popular with groups of different political views on the independent left, which is at least a sign that it’s not all about sectarianism.
Surely the importance given to El Libertario is mainly due to their communication deeds, not much about it’s presence in Venezuela’s class struggle.
I hope that this debate goes on, even better if it becomes less about accusing one another, as this shows a very low level of debate. I mean, if it’s so important to accuse a small group of people with personal charges it must mean that there is not much going on in the actual class struggle in Venezuela.

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Alex March 29, 2014 at 18:32

Does anybody have access to the mysteriously missing issues 26 and 27 of El Libertario, to which Ciccariello-Maher refers? It would be extremely interesting to read them. Without the missing issues, the closest thing I’ve red to an ‘in-depth’ discussion of the coup by Uzcategui, is on page 210 of his book:

‘It’s worth noting that months after the [2002] coup attempt, several social organizations and human rights groups in Venezuela called for the establishment of a ‘truth commission’ to investigate, in an independent and transparent manner, the events of the coup, and to establish responsibility for it, and for the deaths that occurred during it. This proposal was strongly rejected by both the elites of the Bolivarian government and the rightist opposition political parties. This suggests that the actual chain of events corresponds to neither that advanced by the Bolivarian government nor that advanced by its rightist opposition.’ (Rafael Uzcategui, Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, See Sharp Press, 2010, pp. 201)

Basically, then, ‘responsibility’ for the 2002 sub-Fascist coup has never really been ‘establish[ed]’. That is, numerous admissions of responsibility made, on camera, by right-wing military personnel who were personally involved (see, e.g., Bart Jones, Hugo!: The Hugo Chávez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution, Vintage, 2009, pp. 343), are of no moment.

So yeah, I think Ciccariello-Maher is spot-on in this article, and ROAR deserves credit for publishing it, in m opinion.

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Jb April 1, 2014 at 21:24

For real. I worked at Indymedia during the time of the 2002 coup, and this ostensible “anarchist” magazine has consistently been about entitlement in the name of “liberty.”

They supported a fascist coup against the Bolivarian constitution, which put the Chamber of Commerce “in charge” until the people rose up against it. Those same traitors now reside in Miami with their formerly Cuban brethren.

Are we not supposed to notice this reactionary garbage because they call themselves “anarchists” ? Well, in the USA the same entitled politics calls itself “libertarian” and “anti-statist” because they want the direct control of the propertied over the underclasses. That’s what they are about, 100%. Which is why these self-styled anarchists do NOTHING to challenge the upper classes in Venezuela. NOTHING. They ONLY engage in propaganda to inoculate anarchists and leftists against an understanding of the stakes in Venezuela.

Thank you ROAR for printing this engaged and thoughtful critique that finally called out this propaganda sect for what it is. Not that they ARE middle class, but that their POLITICS are reactionary, entitled and are willfully working in tandem to reinstall the upper classes in power over the state, economy and future of Latin America.

Also, Chavez is dead. We know what he did in his life. And he had more respect for democracy and the agency of common people than any political leader in this hemisphere in our lifetime. That’s just a fact. History has more than absolved him. And for that, the entitled elitists will hate him (and all the millions of people who aren’t living in gated communities or “cities” that protect their privilege).

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jonthom April 6, 2014 at 08:48

This is an archive.org copy of their site taken in October 2002 – my Spanish isn’t up to much but I imagine they’re there.

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jonthom April 6, 2014 at 08:49
anarchia March 29, 2014 at 18:42

Solidarity with the anarcho-syndicalists of Venezuela. Enough subcultural nonsense.

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anarchy? March 29, 2014 at 19:01

Any marking targeting the group publicly call themselves “anarchists”, with detailed analysis, is worth of attention. I wonder if this neoliberal and NGO elements be exposed in many other cases…like Bosnia for exemple, we would have more clear picture what is going on. Similar situation is that in Bosnia we had this claims of police repression where there was no repression in the beginning of protests, and also, those who suport protests and protest and claiming to be part of plenums and representing people`s voice in many cases on media shows up, are very close to NGO-s…And this is not criticised in news…As a metter of things shows up an article that attacks one group Slobodari (Libertarians) for “selfstyled anarchism” and themselves do not sign under article (so they can not be criticised and have no credibility to talk).Since we have in Bosnia many NGOs.I personaly saw NGO/close ativists involved in protests and speaking in the name of “anarchists” I wonder how can we say that any informations that went out of borders of one country are truth and not neoliberal colored…even with central inteligence agents infiltrated. Those who ignore this facts and pretend to be blind on the facts, calling international europian organisations for support in the cases of police repression could not be anarchist in no way!

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José Calderón March 29, 2014 at 21:15

I remember I wrote a long reply, insulting yes, but straight-forward and hard against the propaganda drone that represents this hipster magazine. Your media-fabricating laboratories, conviently located in bourguoise cities like Berkeley and Philadelphia, often try to discredit people who actually live here. This is of course far common in the masturbatory left, who like to gather all their information from State-promoted media (How independent, bro) and project their dreams on our ideology-drenched countries. I am including Africa and Asia here. White people like to use us as their patio to try new ideas, wether they’re from the far right or the far left. Your left, blessed and protected by liberal democracy, is by far the most hypocritical on this planet. At least the right admits they’re imperialistic pigs, but your kind won’t admit to do so. You’re too accomodated critizicing people who fight against authoritarism because you’re egotistical white people. Imperialist, because it is in your genes. I don’t like you, bros. Stop.

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B.R. March 29, 2014 at 21:56

what exactly is grassroots
and what is the difference from NGO?

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Javier March 29, 2014 at 23:54

The FARV were unapologetically pro-government and pro-president, something I cannot even comprehend for an anarchist movement. I don’t go on them for believing in the “Bolivarian” ideality of the State, but yes on the fact they openly supported a State, regardless of its ideology. This article criticizes El Libertario for not participating in the community, but what can be said about the FARV? All they left is a out-of-date Blogspot, with no much content, a few openly-pro-State cultural acts and a few public appearances in pro-State rallies. Their strong presence was as much as Internet-based as El Libertario currently is.

They presented themselves as critical of the government, but is the same vein of criticism you can find in any of the pro-State “alternative” political parties, like in the Communist Party. They have their critics, but those don’t hold much weight against the fact of thinking outside of having the State rule the nation, at least for the near future.

I take this article as a personal opinion, a narrow-sight with which certain phrases where surgically extracted to form an opinion, or omitted for the same result. But I will also say, it is not exactly personal opinion, just the same old critic speech tossed around again and again, with a few additions every now an then.

It also exposes some of the wrong-doings of El Libertario, something that should be put onto light, more importantly their lack of presence outside of their comfort zone, at least for those you can regard as actual members of El Libertario collective, since they have collaborators who are actually way more present. Biggest damage to El Libertario, in my opinion, is that their only know and popular face is that of Rafael Uzcátegui, an easy target for critics. Red Anarquista is another movement in the country, it doesn’t receives even a quarter of all the criticism El Libertario does, why? ’cause they are not as public (to the mainstream media) and they don’t have a figure-head like Uzcátegui. For the rest, bot share common points. Same can be said for other movements. El Libertario is more than just one guy.

Dismissing some of the acts perpetrated by the forces of “security” just because “these were never actually reported to the competent agencies” is a joke, I can’t believe anarchist supporting the idea that if you don’t go to a “competent” agency and denounce what has been done, then you either deserve it or you’re lying.

I’m sorry, not surprised, to see the lost of the FARV, even if they didn’t do much actually, their presence and idea, if it were not for the fact of their constant bickering and efforts to put El Libertario down as false (same can be said about the later regarding the FARV), could have been great for the anarchist movement in the country, joining forces in one big and coordinated effort along the many other anarchist collectives and movements.

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ghostbar March 30, 2014 at 00:16

So much words to criticize a group that’s against a huge state like the current Venezuelan state.

What’s to be criticized on an individual fighting against the repression of a state that does not accepts voices against it?

The «classism revolution»; criticize people by their class, not by their actions and ideas.

BTW, being middle-class in Venezuela means having to do a 3 hours line for getting food. And in San Cristóbal, where the uprise started has meant that since 6 years ago.

Ciccariello can criticizes everything he wants and support actions together with the Venezuelan government (such anarchist) from the comfort of his sofá, in the meanwhile we have to keep eating shit in Venezuela while the government sells it as Nutella.

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evaristo montiel March 30, 2014 at 00:39

jorgito c-m, how much was the palangre for write this piece? did you go thru the SICAD 2 to take your lettuce to philadephia? i´m sorry chico we hear the job of a professor in a private first-world university is very hard and dangerous and pay is baaaad, my cousin from SIDOR who loss one finger knows the feeling.

papi you think we don´t know you write this about anyone not jalabolas of the venezuelan state? what about boliburgueses, generales, cleptocrats like Diosdado? GNB officials doing bachaqueo with the people´s food? those don´t exist for jorgito c-m!.. let´s talk about an anarchist panflet that hate the state (that´s why they´re anarchists right??)

this is not more serious than what you said that gochos are white power racists. cero evidence and too much gringo textbook ideologie. papi everyone in tachira is mixed with timotes and cuica, brown and nice like other venezuelan. you want readers to see el coco blanco because he exist in the USA, but not here papi you know it.

aaah by the way, El Libertario writes about our indigenas and their fight for autonomy. many reporters been to comunities in perija and amazonas (you have? siii claro) to report what your loved chavista state do to yukpas and baris. do you know? heard of Sabino Romero? wants land of his people back? sorry no, the russian and chinese and iranian companies need to work, government convenio is signed already!.. he protesting? pim pam pum! calladito más bonito.

but jorgito c-m will not write that. that´s cool we´ll denunce boliburgueses and the high class tuxedo malandros while jorgito c-m help them send more money into their swiss accounts. the history will say who was with the people.

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Mouth Piece March 30, 2014 at 02:33

It’s sad that a smart guy like George Ciccariello-Maher resorts to attacking Uzcátegui’s “Class”, and attempts at destroying his credibility by calling him a “figurehead” and slamming his background. If origin is not a curse, then why bring it up? We could bring up that Ciccariello-Maher works for a capitalist, bourgeois university for instance. This calls in question Ciccariello-Maher’s motivation. After all he published a lot of his pro-Chavez pieces in”Venezuela Analysis” a website run by Chavez mouth piece Eva Gollinger (google her). What we never hear from Ciccariello-Maher and his crew is the abuses perpetrated with total impunity by Maduro and his security forces. Nope, we’re not going to get an objective viewpoint on this situation, but yet another over educated middle class white north american intellectual that romanticizes Latin American struggles from the comfort of his ivory tower. Makes one wonder why Ciccariello-Maher has taken so much time and energy to attack El Libertario…

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El Acrata March 30, 2014 at 03:06

Excellent article debunking Rafael Uzcátegui’s claims about Venezuela and Chavismo. The only thing about anarchism that El Libertario possesses is its name, the rest is plain and simple postmodern hogwash. Once you start reading Uzcátegui’s article you can’t escape the underlying ideological substratum that clearly evidences a class related reasoning emerging from a bourgeois mindset worldview.
Of course there are many serious problems in Venezuela that need to be addressed urgently by the Bolivarian government and constructive criticism is necessary by all means. But to aligned your dissent with the fascist oligarchy and the US destabilization agenda while calling yourself an anarchist is an enormous travesty at the very least. In the final analysis and quite ironically it is Uzcátegui himself who becomes a postmodern performance spectacle with his faux brand of anarchism.

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Lucas March 30, 2014 at 06:04

bourgeouis alliance with the working classe, how do you call it? I call it fascism.
Have the workers obtained autonomy, has the capitalist system of managing productive work been abolished? Are the workers free or does the State still exists to maintain and guarantee the hierarchty and submission of a working class to a dominant class of technocrats within transnational companies?
When the working class pledge alliance to “representatives” who assures the security and the logic of private property, when the masses support a government that eliminates the dissent by extermination while the capitalist classe still reigns, this is as closer as it gets to fascism.

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GCM March 30, 2014 at 16:44

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, there’s not much to respond to in the critical comments. Most people seem to resort to silly non-arguments these days: How can you write about this from the “comfort” of Philadelphia? You’re not Venezuelan, how dare you? How much did the government pay you to write? But of course when Jared Leto or Cher or John Kerry say something they like, they eat it up…

A couple of substantive points:

- Someone’s class background doesn’t disqualify them, but it is something that needs to be overcome in struggle (here’s a good example: http://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/n193721.html). The bigger point is that rather than overcome it, El Lib has embraced it.

- On reporting “torture” to competent agencies: opposition students calling for the overthrow of a government have every incentive to exaggerate or even lie about their treatment by police. Anyone who knows anything knows that there has been massive exaggeration and even outright manipulation and lies since the beginning of these protests, and luckily much of it has been debunked with time. I’m against torture and abuses, which should be investigated and those responsible punished, but it’s ridiculous to assume that every single claim – duly collected, counted, and circulated as fact by NGOs like PROVEA and the Foro Penal – are valid. FYI: the Venezuelan attorney general is investigating dozens of torture allegations, but the “competent institutions” don’t stop there – I was thinking equally of the UN rapporteur on torture who, contrary to the numbers put forth by NGOS, has only seen 2-3 cases that might entail torture (http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10536).

- Regarding the general claim that either myself or the FARV are blindly Chavistas, this is utter nonsense. Read my book, or recent pieces like the one on Jacobin (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/03/venezuelan-jacobins/) – revolutionary criticism is one thing, siding with the right because of some abstract opposition to all states is another thing entirely.

- To add something I didn’t mention: Uzcátegui is obsessed with calling revolutionary grassroots organizations like the so-called colectivos “paramilitaries” – and he is denouncing the workers militias in the same terms. I wonder why he doesn’t mention the fact that at the epicenter of these protests, western states like Táchira and Mérida, these “peaceful” protests are heavily infiltrated by actual right-wing paramilitary youth groups that charge tolls to pass the barricades and attack and kill anyone they want. I guess the real “paramilitaries” don’t warrant discussion…

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ghostbar April 1, 2014 at 06:43

If they are armed and act as a parallel militia then they are paramilitaries, not collectives.

He and all of us have started to clarify the use of terms precisely because we do not want to criminalize the collectives, but the paramilitaries.

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evaristo montiel March 30, 2014 at 19:07

yes jorgito c-m. question the testimony from jailed protesters, that´s fine, healthy. but then you say paramilitars train gochos and barricades with toll with zero concrete evidence. you see? that´s why we think you eat lettuce a la palangre. you guys lie sometimes but you love half truths. tell me where are the eight international terrorists the gob. say detained at altamira? the captured colombian desestabilizadores? where papi WHERE?

didn´t you tweet and post about Adriana Urquiola murdered by guarimba? sorry jorgito the investigation say it was a CORPOELEC employee who got sentence for 23 years some time ago but he got pardon, nice gob. agency job, 9 milimeters iron and a toyota 4runner. now you see the consequence of iris varela´s politics but let´s blame leopoldo.

bassil was carpenter like you, worked to pay univ. fees., murdered by SEBIN officials during protest, the investigation says names and all. you care? no just some “hijito de papi” (from Guatire, jaja cdsm chico). if he was chavista you´d car a bit and write a lot, we know that papi.

aahh and about john kerry and jared leto and cher, yeah i agree they should stay in el imperio and leave us alone…. you too jorgito c-m, you too.

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bingey March 31, 2014 at 04:08

George Ciccariello-Maher is a point person for the Maduro government. My trust in him tumbled when I saw his interview on Al Jazeera (right after the shooting of unarmed protesters) in which he blames the deaths of the protesters on the protesters themselves. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFw-0II-_SA).

Since that interview Maduro has arrested police suspected of killing some of the unarmed protesters. (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/storystream/venezuela-police-facing-murder-pr...).

So the Al Jazeera interview shows Ciccariello-Maher in full damage control mode for the Maduro government until its position pivoted. However, since the killings of opposition protesters, there have been lists published online that suggest that though the victims of state violence were largely opposition protesters, there are also deaths that are being blamed on opposition sabotage. (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-who-are-...)

Whatever your position on Chavez or Maduro, I’m wary of any anarchist that is not willing to admit the U.S.’s long term hostility towards non-compliant governments in Latin America; the existence of the CIA’s meddling; and current shadowy orgs like the National Endowment for Democracy which sponsored Leopold Lopez, the last opposition candidate against Maduro. Lopez is a slick neoliberal bastard with degrees with Harvard and the Kennedy School of Government.

Here’s the link for Leopold Lopez’s 2006 power point presentation on how he’s going to destabilize the Chavez government. I’m not sure if it’s part of the linked clip but in the same talk he boasts of how he will use student movements to help him destabilize Chavez. (http://maxblumenthal.com/2014/02/who-is-leopoldo-lopez/)

It concerns me that the only anarchist voice that is being presented here is from El Libertario. I’m not familiar with the country and have no contacts in it so I can’t trust a single collective or voice. It’s also no help that the “real anarchists” that Ciccariello-Maher quotes from are the Revolutionary Anarchist Federation of Venezuela (FARV) which is no longer operating as a collective. Jerome Roos in the comments on this page seems to have swallowed whole FARV’s argument of “strategic collaboration” with Chavism. But even though it’s a seductive argument, it’s basically a ghost argument since it’s no longer backed by an existing organization which can respond to Ciccariello-Maher’s appropriation of their political line in this context.

Even though it’s presents itself as being about El Libertario, Ciccariello-Maher’s piece seems to me to be aimed largely at Western anarchists. Anarchists have basically neither fully supported Chavism nor fully denounced it. I’m one of them as there was much that I admired in Chavism. If Ciccariello-Maher is propagandizing for anarchist fellow-travelers for the Maduro government then he’s certainly going about in an odd way. And if Maduro, unlike the Chavez government, makes the mistake of sustaining itself largely through police and governmental violence rather than through the force of populism then no one is going to support it except for the most hardcore left idealogues.

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Mau March 31, 2014 at 04:30

The thing with El Libertario is that even if its editorial line is far too liberal for my liking—hence why I’m always careful with regards to it—it is, in its print editions, a more variegated body of work than Ciccariello-Maher would like to acknowledge. It extensively documents the abuses, if not actively anti-socialist policies, on part of the government and the bourgeois class now more prominent than ever in its leadership. Even though I dislike how Uzcátegui regularly spins that material into liberal ‘third way’ politics and the many other things which result in awful posturings that coalesce with the right, the material is there and shouldn’t be discounted solely on the basis of the newspaper’s editor.

Chavismo is as much a site of struggle as any other in Venezuelan society. You can see it in the columns section on Aporrea and the increasingly ambivalent views on the government held by the grassroots base of the PSUV and its affiliated parties. What angers me the most about this article is Ciccariello-Maher’s (very white, male and western) attempts to impose a standard of what a ‘true’ revolutionary Venezuelan anarchist would be like—this anarchist would have to maintain some nominal support for the government (a standard that if we were to follow through would discount the majority of the working-class organisations represented at the march 21 Popular and Syndicalist gathering in Caracas!), would have to have a pure proletarian class background and would tone down their anger at the State (for showing too much of it is siding with the right) even if it is the State—or rather the pro-Diosdado bourgeois-military class deeply entrenched within it—is the main perpetrator of economic violence against the Venezuelan people, as could be seen in SICAD 2 or all those handshakes and deals between Maduro, Cisneros and Mendoza.

What I’ve learned from these protests as a Venezuelan who lives abroad is that I can’t make the infinitely varied events on the ground fit a neat image of what I would like them to be like, and I can’t possibly imagine how Ciccariello-Maher—a white male gringo academic—gets the hunch that he can (but let’s not go there and locate THAT in his background no way). Of course I’d like perfectly-formed revolutionary vanguards on the streets, workers’ control of the nation’s little remaining industrial output and a concerted popular response to the reactionary factions predominant in the opposition but I don’t have a say in any of that. Ciccariello-Maher can afford an engagement which to the majority of Venezuelans is completely alien—that of throwing vast amounts of nuance out of the window (i.e. how can we account for people who come from the barrios at the protests in Altamira, how does the generational shift in the Chavista working-class base work out for the government, what happened to the popular outlets for protest and socialist formation which the revolution sought to enliven and have been silent and supplanted by the reactionary response, why is there not a response to the economic war at the communal level) in favor of neat totalizing narratives. The only insight I have into this as a Venezuelan is that you get extremely angry at the lengthy queues for basic (and overpriced) food staples, the murders and violence, the fact that sometimes you can’t even count on the fact that toilet paper will last you through the month and it is damn easy to see all these things and be swayed by a response of reaction. I believe that all these issues have their source in capital and are not fake or peripheral distractions to the revolution; addressing them in an anticapitalist manner is crucial if it is to survive. It is the government that has excised all critical faculties from itself that fails to see that and promote that true anti-capitalist popular response. And how could I be surprised at that with all the boliburguesia in power, and how could I be surprised by the fact that the guarimbas aid the government on their own path to reaction (in SICAD, the accords with Fedecamaras and the continued creation of empresas mixtas) and maybe—just maybe—the government is interested in prolonging that situation in which all negative response to it gets conflated with the most reactionary of responses, as wages are slashed and the prices of goods go up following devaluation.

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alex March 31, 2014 at 05:52

1) Let’s be honest and what class most people belong in protest in the US. I have personally been at multiple protests starting with the FTAA in miami back in 2004, as well as the G8 meetings, and I have helped organize local indymedia and Food Not Bombs groups. The reality is, most anarchists I have met are middle class. Moreover, most latin american anarchists I have met are part of the middle class. How does one come in contact with anarchism? Books, music, education…all of which come (yes, sadly) as a result of privilege. You know, that privilege that you also were born with if you were born white regardless of your economic class (I assume you are a white dude but if you are not I am sorry for making that assumption).

I remember attending the APOC (Anarchist People of Color) conference years ago in DC and one of the talks that I will always remember was about the fact that a lot, if not most of those of us who consider ourselves anarchists, come from middle class families and what that meant. Here is the thing, if you were born as in a middle class family, are you supposed to shut your mouth and be a republican because that is you do not deserve to believe in anarchism? If we were born with any privilege the best we can do is use that privilege as a way to help us get our message, our social justice hopes and ideas out there. Whether middle class anarchists decide to go to a big name university and study anarchism and publish books that help people understand our ideologies and ideas in a positive light, or start the most accesible anarchists news publication in our third world countries, it does not matter as long as we do not pretend that privilege is not there and hope that by boycotting a few brands and going to punk rock concerts we are helping the world change. You know, just like you use your white privilege to show your face on tv news.

Don’t go ahead an support any left wing government because you they are better than the right (they are not). Clearly you think you understand the situation in Venezuela 100% and that the poor support Maduro just because they are poor. The truth is that your views, in my eyes at least, make no more sense than those of a hard core christian who thinks Muslims are wrong in their belief….keep preaching to your choir.

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Alex April 1, 2014 at 04:13

Alex, although we share the same name, I disagree with you here.

You disparage those who believe that the ‘left wing government’ in Venezuela is ‘better than the right’. But, you know, in many respects, it simply is, and one does not have to be a Chavista propagandist to acknowledge this evident fact.

Consider, for example, how the Venezuelan poor prospered under the strong economic growth of the early 1990s, over which those sectors that now largely constitute the right-wing political opposition presided. Julia Buxton reminds us:

‘[H]igher oil prices following the Gulf War in 1991 and a strong [economic] performance in the non-traditional sector combined to produce economic growth of 6.5 percent, 9.7 percent, and 6.1 percent from 1990 to 1993. Curiously, the improvement in gross domestic product (GDP) indicators did not lead to any reversal in poverty. After a brief fall from 1991 to 1992, not only did general poverty continue to rise, but it was outstripped by increases in extreme poverty.’ (Julia Buxton, ‘Economic Policy and the Rise of Hugo Chavez’, in Steve Ellner & Daniel Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era: Class Polarization & Conflict, Rienner, 2004, pp. 118)

As far as class war is concerned, strong, simultaneous growth in GDP and extreme poverty is quite an achievement. Now, ask yourself this: did general poverty continue to rise — and was it in fact outstripped by increases in extreme poverty — during, for example, the rapid economic rapid economic recovery of 2003-2007, overseen by the ‘left wing government’ that you say is no ‘better than the right’? The answer is no. General poverty and extreme poverty both fell, significantly, during the 2003-2007 boom. It’s a similar story with several other important socioeconomic indicators.

Also, as far as Rafael Uzcategui is concerned, I don’t think anybody is arguing that ‘if you were born as in a middle class family, … you [shoud] shut your mouth and be a republican because … you do not deserve to believe in anarchism’ — only that one should have a quasi-pornographic obsession with the denigration of revolutionary grassroots organizations, like the colectivos, as ‘paramilitaries’, whilst at the same time being prepared to throw only verbal marshmallows at Fascist coups (which it turns out he’s actually embarrassed about, since, as GMC pointed out, ‘Issues 26 and 27 of El Libertario, published around the time of the coup, are conveniently missing from the web archive’).

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GCM March 31, 2014 at 17:16

Bingey – I didn’t, and wouldn’t, blame unarmed protestors for being shot to death by police (anyone can watch the linked video and see that), and I am glad to see security forces being held accountable for those killings and excessive use of force. But moreover, everything I said in that early interview/debate has proven accurate: whereas the right-wing commentators like Emiliana Duarte were insisting that no protestors were armed, this quickly became untenable, and no one would argue it anymore since 6 national guard have been shot dead and a number of Chavistas attempting to clear barricades from their neighborhoods, including the Chilean Gisela Figueroa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDa_jC_UNgc)

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XaViER April 1, 2014 at 11:22

Venezuelan Analysis is not a reliable source of information. Especially on anarchists. They manipulate facts. Example – in 2007 there was shooting during students protest. Venezuelan analysis using government propaganda said that students were shooting at chavistas, but it was not true – in reality member of Anarchist Black Cross was shot by chavista riding on a motorcycle.http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/peter-gelderloos-chavistas-open-fire-injure-eight-protestors-in-caracas

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XaViER April 1, 2014 at 11:34

There is more information about it, with photos of chavista thugs shooting at our anarchist comrades: http://cnainforma.blogspot.com/2007/11/ms-imagenes-de-la-refriega-en-que.html

And then “Venezuelan Analysis” claimed something like that:
http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2818

Were are photos of chavistas shooting at people? Nowhere. This is really a shame to belive them.

It’s also a shame to be teached constantly by middle-class journalists from the west what anarchists should think about their own governments. I always listen teachings towards East European or South American anarchists, what we should do or think. It’s nothing less than some kind of leftist imperialism.

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XaViER April 1, 2014 at 11:37

And yes I am angry about it.

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Michael Theodosiadis April 1, 2014 at 14:50

Is ‘El Libetrario’ a group of ‘false’ anarchists or the writer reproduces (in this article), constantly and unquestionably left-wing nonsensical, hysterical arguments to back an authoritarian regime? Even if we decide that this is not a proper anarchist group, why then we have to side with the Chavistas instead of attempting to elucidate the situation in this country from a completely independent eye, beyond the three groups (El Libertarion, Chavistas and the opposition)?

Besides, I can’t take serious arguments like that; “In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt argued that the French Revolution was doomed by “necessity and poverty” because its supporters were drawn from “the multitude of the poor””. When you decide to quote a writer, just do a better research on what he/she says instead of ‘mistranslating’ the message in order to interpret it according to your own stand-point. What Arendt conveys is not “the poor are not to be trusted”. That’s a very biased and simplistic approach on her work. Arendt’s point is that when necessity invades the political realm, then power (that is deliberate action, communication and consultation) becomes synonymous with brute force and results to the destruction of the only realm that men could live free, as equals among equals. Necessity (that is labour and survival) is the rule of nature upon human beings. Poverty (the most extreme form of necessity) is a condition that can be mastered only through open, public and deliberate action (Arendt supports a council system of democracy by drawing on inspiration from the Hungarian Revolution and the Parisian Commune). Thus, necessity does not erode power relations. In other words, poverty can be mastered only by the poor, through a system of open participation; economic inequality derives from political inequality, and only the political realm secures the former (and hence the latter).

Marxism, on the contrary, projects change in the existing power-relations; the proletariat will become the new ruling class (and thus we have the re-production and perpetuation of the dialectic between master and slave). Only through equal participation, through a public realm, significant changes can take place. And I am afraid, Chavism is anything but that.

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Dane April 1, 2014 at 22:35

I am often struck by the fact that Marxists pride themselves on their class analysis, but seem to have no idea what class politicians and police belong to (if they’re “socialist” politicians and police). I will take someone who’s “middle class” but anarchist over a “socialist” politician any day.

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Alejandro April 2, 2014 at 00:44

Hi…
I’m from Venezuela, and I personally know R. Uzcategui.

Yes, he comes from a middle class family. But currently lives in a sparsely furnished rented apartment in an area not Privileged of Caracas city. He has no car and never worked for the right. The latter is clearly a false statement. Because it has not worked for the mayoralty of Baruta (one right sector known).
Your article is very trite, a remake of the opinion of a government that has spiked dramatically, to those who do not agree with their ideas. The peoples professed anarchists in Venezuela, are so few that would not fill a decimal into a percentage table.

We do not represent an offensive by any government, our number, capacity and economic power is null in front of a state with all the economic and political powers in favor. We only have opinions and seek to foster a better means of governance for our people, we have never failed to recognize the government of Hugo Chavez and the Maduro president.

Now … What happens in Venezuela really? The generation of students now protest in the streets. They guys, are the arrival of President Chávez were only children 4 or 5 years old, do not know about an alternative government, and worry about the future. Just this week the government launched a macro devaluation close to 700% having four currency rates against the dollar, official and un-official, certainly the lowest rates in the market is not accessible in front of the highest, if achieved charge currency.

This government has one of thousands of unsolved problems and is: the Venezuelan state controls everything, but is not responsible for anything. Controls the purchase & sale of the dollar, but is not self-responsible and the devaluation rate un-official. Controls the distribution of food in more than 67% but not responsible for the scarcity. Regulates imports of medicines, spare parts and consumables. but is not responsible for the shortage and high inflation. The state controls prisons, police and all armed security corps. But is not responsible for the public safety, the violent theft, kidnapping, and etc. This government is one of the most corrupt in the world. However the only political prisoners are those of his dissent.

Ok, why not there are more social explosion?… Simple, are 15 years of indoctrination to the poor, is not only economically poor people. Mainly people poor in cultural and political. The middle class protest because it is economically aware that we are not at all well. Then the Venezuelan government’s first task is given, to criminalize acts of protests, and the second act accused imperialist sectors (such as the United States, who has a high rate of business) accusing them of interventionism; when it is highly known that political and military groups meet Cubans and execute actions inside and outside of the Venezuelan state.

Go my humble opinion concluding. The Venezuelan left, which has full power and WEALTH says. all protests that originates from the middle class to high. not accepted and are people criminals. Wanting to ignore public opinion, already marginalized sectors recorded protests in several cities, controlling them and dispersing them to the point of militarization of the area.
Who recorded these events? all people, rich and poor, those who have a cell phone with a camera or other device, because while the national guard come into the neighborhood where you live, flared armed civilian groups. to shoot, burn cars and steal, on television transmitted show comedy and romance history.

Thanks for your attention!

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Itaia Muxaic de Ricart April 9, 2014 at 19:46

Latin Americans are “personalistas” – and “theories” from Europe or U.S. academic “thinkers” – simply do not work in Latin America. 2. How does Latin American Thinking work ? The vendor of balloons was leaning against base of the monument of Simon Bolivar in Guayaquil/Ecuador (in pre-Alba times), the cop tells the vendor: “The Mayor does not want that one leans against the monument!” The vendor: “But he did not tell me that!”. Thus, the cop uses a real weapon among Latin Americans: Unresistable politeness. The cop replies: “Then please !” The vendor: “Yes, like that!” – and stands away from the monument. Of course the appeal to the “persona” works only among typical Latin Americans – and not the wealthy sectors who are primarily of post-colonial-era settlement and had a highway into tapping the economy due to their traditional commercial experience (from abroad) and privileges reserved to “whites”. The majority of the 500+ million Latin Americans of the “popular” sectors (brown, black, white) and even among the “old stock” of higher society – have substantial genetic ancestry from indigenous women (35% of the 42% of Brazilians who declare themselves as “white” have matrilineal mitochondrial DNA from indigenous women, and 62% of all Puerto Ricans.) Before 1800 only a very small number of European women came to Latin America, and even the Africans brought by slavers, where in the majority male. Thus the “popular” Latin American is not only genetically different, but also psychologically – because the “family” acquired from the beginning certain psychological ticks from the indigenous mother, and for centuries onwards – even the “old white stock” (which also had that indigenous ancestral mother) always had indigenous or mestizo nannies. Carl Jung even discovered that among this U.S. patients – who were from the “old Anglo-stock” which even in the U.S. had frequently some indigenous female ancestry.( Sam Houston’s wife was half-Cherokee.) Carl Jung stated: “All my American patientients show some character from the indigenous”.). Thus, the Latino never underwent the regimentation by the thousands of local and regional aristocratic tyrants that regulated most communities in Europe (until 1806, Germany had over 300 principalities ). In U.S. however a much greater percentage descend from family immigration. This produced the backbone of the old “heartland”: The “school morm ” – the dedicated protestant Scotch-Irish or German descended American woman – which never disciplined anyone in Latin America. At the end of the Spanish colonial area in the 1810 – there were only about 5,000 women from Spain in Spanish America, among the 380,000 “whites”. From 1500 to 1820 – only a negligible number of European women came to Brazil. Even the 5+ million immigrants to Brazil 1875 to current were 2/3 male. (Ever noticed that women in Brazil speak the Portuguese language differently then men ?). Thus: Forget Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Hannah Arendt, Gramsci, Hitler, The Chicago School of Economics, Hayek – it works as little in Latin America as it works in China! We know however what Latin Americans want: 1. Macro control of the economy by the national government.(Watch the Lula system in Brazil!) 2. Less inequality (Watch the Lula system in Brazil). 3. Remain “personalistas”(read up, seriously on the subject “Indian humor” ). —As for what is happening in Venezuela and in Latin America: The CIA and the BND (Germany) run hundreds of “anarco-trotkyist” groups in Latin America to outflank the legitimate left,and in tandem with the “environmentalists” directed from London, and the “liberation theologians”. All financed by U.S. billionaires, and the governments of Britain and Germany, through “grants”. Only India was able to countermove: In 2013 the Home Office (Interior Ministry) of India prohibited further financing “from outside India” for 4,141 NGOs linked to the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Scandinavia which are active in India: “Due to diversion of funds against the national interests of India.” One German “activist” was arrested and deported – to send a signal.

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Larry Gambone April 14, 2014 at 07:59

I don’t think FARV was directly advocating unity with the Bolivarian govt. I think it – like all espesifist anarchist organizations – was advocating involvement in the popular struggles. FARV developed after I wrote the following article and seems to me to have put into practice the policies advocated there. (I am making no claim that I influenced them, by the way) See (in both Spanish and English)

http://www.anarkismo.net/article/12265?search_text=gambone
http://www.anarkismo.net/article/15916?search_text=gambone

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