Joti Brar: Caracas antiwar conference and the situation in Venezuela

Hugo Chávez’s legacy can most clearly be seen in the deep commitment to anti-imperialism and to socialism that has taken root among the Venezuelan masses.

In this wide-ranging interview with Red Star Radio’s Alexander Mckay, Comrade Joti Brar reports back from her recent visit to Venezuela with the World Anti-imperialist Platform.

They talk about the legacy of Comandante Hugo Chávez, legendary founder of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolutionary process, whose 10-year commemorations the Platform delegates took part in, the impact of six years of an incredibly draconian imperialist sanctions regime on the country’s economy and people, and the equally incredible spirit of anti-imperialist resistance that has characterised the response of the Venezuelan popular masses to the ceaseless attacks against their leaders and their revolution.

Joti talks about her meetings with workers in barrios in and around the capital city Caracas, describing some of the gains made by the people since the revolution began in 1999, and the powerful effect that being given the support and power to try to solve their own problems in their communities has given to working people.

The veneration in these communities for Comrade Chávez cannot be overstated, since his indomitable spirit and great love for the people were combined with a refusal to compromise the people’s interests with the demands of the imperialists and their local stooges, no matter how difficult they made life for the country or how much he himself was demonised.

Joti reflects also on the nature of the Bolivarian process, whereby a people-centred socialist-aspiring government has come to power in an oppressed country via a bourgeois election. She describes the process as a kind of “revolution in slow motion”, with popular participatory institutions slowly arising alongside the still-existing framework of the bourgeois state machinery.

The people’s popular councils and communes, the constituent assembly, the people’s militias and the army all represent bastions of the popular power. On the other hand, the mass media, parts of the civil service and judiciary, the bourgeois parliament and most of the economy remain in the hands of the capitalist class, most of which is subservient to imperialism. This has led to a kind of long-term dual power stalemate in which neither side has yet had the strength to strike a decisive blow against the other.

While the economy remains a capitalist one, the PSUV government is not able to plan the economy to solve people’s problems but must constantly deal with the problems created by global economic crisis, inflation, sanctions and economic sabotage. The CLAP plan, which provides basic staple foodstuffs to working-class Venezuelans, alongside the free housing and utilities that are provided to many means that the mass of workers are kept out of homelessness and starvation. Despite the poor purchasing power of most salaries under the present conditions of blockade and sabotage, they are able to survive and endure.

And they never cease to look for creative ways to solve their problems, whether that be to continue building houses or supplying water to homes despite a lack of imported materials like concrete and piping, treatments for Covid despite a blockade on vaccines and medicines, or protecting the natural environment.

On the other hand, the reformation of the army along popular lines and the creation of people’s militias has been key to the defence of the revolution. The oligarchs have been unable to stage a coup since their 2002 attempt to displace President Chávez by a military junta was defeated, and great importance is placed on the pro-people civil-military union.

A sense that things might finally be shifting was palpable on this visit, says Joti. Although the hardships remain severe and the masses have very little in terms of material consumer goods, they have a strong spirit of anti-imperialist resistance and a determination not to give in.

Moreover, there is a real feeling that the people have endured the worst that the imperialists could throw at them and that their isolation is now gradually coming to an end. As the anti-imperialist bloc of countries grows and comes together, Venezuela is entering into trading and military partnerships with Iran, China, Russia and more that have the potential to transform the situation and swing the balance of forces decisively in favour of the people.

Joti also reflects on the power of a real mass movement to mobilise women, who form the basis of meaningful community activity. And how this in turn gives a sense of community and meaning to the lives of all involved in a way that is desperately lacking in the west, where children may have all kinds of consumer goods and gadgets, but lack the community support and positive outlook for the future that are so essential to their development as healthy human beings.

She recounts being deeply moved to hear a Venezuelan working-class abuela quote Karl Marx in a meeting, when she told her audience: “Theory becomes a material force when it grips the masses.” This is the legacy and spirit of Chávismo, which has inspired the masses to resist the unceasing imperialist attacks against them for nearly 25 years.

Reflecting on the Platform’s international conference in Caracas, in which many parties from around the world participated, and which had a special focus on imperialism in Latin America, she underlines once again the importance of taking the anti-imperialist antiwar message to every corner of the globe, bringing together as many organisations as possible around the understanding that we have a side in the present and coming conflicts, and that we must do everything possible to make sure that the imperialsts are defeated.

The alternative for humanity is simmply unthinkable. Victory over the forces of imperialism, on the other hand, will unleash a revolutionary wave across the globe that could dwarf those seen in 1917-19 and after 1945.

You can read the Caracas Declaration here.