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Which Revolution, directed by Asociación Civil Ciudadania Activa, Venezuela 2004
Bolivarian Venezuela: People and Struggle of the Fourth World War. Directed by Marcelo Andrade and Kesang Serpa, Venezuela 2004
WE WERE in a state of shock after the first film, Which Revolution. The first of a double-header on the recent revolutionary movements in Venezuela, it is a vicious, crude, reactionary diatribe against the working class and poor of Venezuela, who rose up in defence of the populist leader, Hugo Chávez, in 2001/02.
The lock-out by oil bosses to try and bring down the Chávez government was shown as a mass strike. Demonstrations organised by the right-wing opposition – which did involve important sections of the middle classes (not just the rich) – were shown as representative of ‘the nation’.
None of this, however, gelled with the eye-witness reports at these tumultuous events. One such participant, Celso Calfullan (Socialismo Revolucionario, CWI Chile), was disgusted at what he was seeing on the screen!
The most disgraceful episode concerned the shooting of protesters on one of the main demos in April 2002. Fortunately, the second film, Bolivarian Venezuela: People and Struggle of the Fourth World War, went through those scenes step by step, exposing police snipers controlled by the right-wing mayor of Caracas.
It traced Chávez’s rise to power back to mass protests in the late 1980s against sudden price rises in basic goods, transport and fuel. This was the beginning of the neo-liberal offensive – the ‘fourth world war’. This mass movement culminated in a massacre by state forces on 27 February 1989. Nothing was the same again.
Chávez won elections in 1999 – having led a failed coup in 1992 – on a wave of mass support. He introduced a new constitution. The film charts his course. What is clear is the sheer scale of the movement supporting him.
When the right-wing opposition (backed by the US) staged a coup in April 2002 and Chávez was arrested, the working-class and poor poured onto the streets in a mass uprising. They laid siege to the presidential palace. The army was split and Chávez was released to take power once again.
The film also gives a picture of the character of the movement. Although there is much talk of participation, it is not clear how far rank-and-file organisation has gone. It looks more like programmes to tackle food shortages, provide education, shelter and medicines are handed down to the poor, rather than genuinely involving them in decision making and organisation.
Nonetheless, the support this has generated runs deep: ‘They can carry out 40 coups if they want, but they’ll never come back,’ shouts a woman’s defiance. This is seen as an anti-rich, anti-imperialist struggle, one uniting the whole of Latin America.
Unfortunately, although Chávez has implemented programmes to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of capitalist and imperialist exploitation, he does not attempt to treat the whole disease. The ruling class in Venezuela still own and control the economy and the mass media. The tragic events of Chile in 1973, when a left-wing socialist government was backed by the mass of the population, only to be brutally crushed by the CIA-backed coup of General Pinochet, is the ominous shadow hanging over the workers of Venezuela.
Bolivarian Venezuela does not analyse Chávez’s programme, or point up the need for democratically organised economic and political control in the hands of the working class. What it does show is the enthusiasm of workers and poor to fight for a cause they believe in. It shows their guts and determination. It shows that revolution is possible.
This is part of the Discovering Latin America: Third Film Festival, which runs until 5 December in various cinemas in London. The wide-ranging programme includes feature films, documentaries and seminars from many of the continent’s countries.
In The Socialist 4 December 2004:
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