Article from the Sept 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

Interview with Venezuelan revolutionary socialist

Yasmin, a leading member of the Venezuelan revolutionary socialist organisation Utopia attended the CWI summer school in Belgium and spoke to the Socialist Voice.

SV: What has Chavez's coming to power meant for ordinary people in Venezuela?
Y: They see him as a messiah, he means salvation for them. He speaks in their language and has implemented many social programs directed towards them. His fundamental discourse is always to invoke the name of "the people".

He has a popular radio and TV show in which he directly communicates his political message to the population. A lot of people watch and listen to these shows to see what the President's political line is.

SV: What actions have the people of Venezuela taken to defend the gains they have made?
Y: There are some initiatives which the population are taking, under the impetus of decisions by Chavez, and others that they have figured out by themselves - independent initiatives to defend what they call "the process".

There are many structures which people take part in, including some that are based on the Constitution, for example, the "Citizens' Assemblies" to evaluate public initiatives and propose alternatives.

There are also democratically elected local councils of public planning across the country. These bodies are designed to perform functions of public control and to execute the social programs. Every little sub-municipality has one of these committees, on a very localized level. Through these organisations, the public tries to assure that the social programs are carried out.

Also, there are the Bolivarian circles, some of which function, some don't. Some are active and do programs others just try to get government funding.

In almost every neighbourhood, there is a so-called "hot corner", where all the pro-Chavez forces get together, and trade literature and make speeches for the public.

All of these assemblies aren't just about implementing social programs these are the meetings where the people discuss defending the gains because now there is a clear consciousness about the possibility of armed invasion.

S What work is your group doing in Venezuela?
Y: Utopia is a Marxist organisation with roughly 200 members. We have branches in indigenous communities in the centre and south of the country, among the peasants in the centre of the country and workers in small enterprises. We also have an organisation of teachers and many student organisations. We have groups in nine public unions and different high schools as well.

Our group has forums, workshops and reading circles in many different parts of the country about questions of local and international politics and ideology.

Because of our lack of resources, we don't have a party newspaper. However, we print a lot of leaflets and have a website, a radio programme and have sometimes been on interviews on state TV channels. For this reason and others, we are known at a national level.

SVWhat is your group's attitude to Chavez?
Y: We have said openly we are not "Chavistas", we are revolutionaries. Many people have criticized us for this.

There's a section of our Statement of Principles, which says that we are loyal, not to persons or sections of the government, but to the principles that are in the interests of the people. We have decided that Chavez is an instrument for people to push forward, but not an end. We support him in every revolutionary move he makes, and question him when he deviates to the right.

We agree with the Committee for a Workers International that the only way to fundamentally improve the standard of living of ordinary people is by an independent struggle of the working class, the peasantry and urban poor, to overthrow capitalism and create a democratic socialist society.

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