Reaffirming our position on the student movement in Venezuela of May 2007

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We want to reaffirm our statement entitled: "The student movement in Venezuela: the young try to break free from the false alternative between Chavism and the opposition" 8/7/07

At our public meetings, via e-mails and forums (one of them being Revleft[1]), we have received criticism as much from outside as inside Venezuela. We are accused of giving a proletarian character to a petty-bourgeois movement with nothing to do with a real proletarian struggle, or of supporting the children of the rich of the country who oppose the Chavist regime.

We reaffirm our position for the following reasons:

- we explicitly entitled our article "student movement" in order to differentiate this movement, from the mobilisation of the students in the last decades (mainly before the rise of Chavismo) which were characterised by violent confrontations with the police, burning of cars, etc. The May 2007[2] movement was marked by a radical difference to those movements: it avoided the sterile confrontations that the leftists and anarchists applaud;

- the most noticeable difference with the past movements was the central role played by the assemblies that took place in various universities at the beginning of the movement. Some secondary school students also participated in the assemblies, where the actions to be taken and how to carry them out were debated. The assemblies were open to participation by lecturers and workers from the universities, and in some students sympathetic to the government participated;

- another important feature of the movement at its beginnings was the effort to distance itself from the politics of polarization that have flourished during the Chávez government. The movement was not only strongly critical of the government; during various events called by the students it also refused to take the word of the leaders of the sectors opposing Chavismo;

- the movement was the real expression of the social discontent that exists in Venezuelan society. The demands of the movement were fundamentally political, denouncing unemployment, poverty, the level of crime, etc[3]. The student movement in some ways was the prelude to more important expressions of social discontent during 2007 and into 2008: at the level of the working class there were struggles (oil, health, railway construction in the central region of the country, tyre makers, SIDOR steel workers, etc); also at the level of the workers in Chavismo's so-called "missions" such as in the Barrio Adentro in the health sector, which demanded fixed contracts and less precarious working; and the population in general (including those sympathetic to Chavismo), confronted with the lack of services, high levels of crime, the lack of housing, the scarcity of food, etc;

- in our position we showed that proletarian factors were expressed within the movement, in part due to the fact that many students at the public and private universities are children of proletarian families, and also many of them are working for formal or informal wages, in order to pay for their studies and to help their families. Those who wanted to deny this factor pretend that the majority of students are from the rich classes of the country. Official statistics disprove this. 75% of university students in the country attended public universities which are free (from long before Chávez came to power) and to which only children from families on lower incomes have access. For reference, at the Central University of Venezuela, the most important in the country (with nearly 13% of all those who graduate in the country's universities), more than 90% of the students come from the Municipio Libertador which takes in the central-western region of Caracas, where more than 60% of the capital live, the majority on low incomes[4]. An important percentage of the students in this municipality also study in the private universities. Unless they have scholarships, many of their families have gone into debt in order to pay for their studies;

- rather than trying to look at the student movement from the sociological point of view or from that of past student mobilisations, the reality is that it is the economic crisis in Venezuela (as in other countries) that has made the poor poorer, and impoverished the middle layers, and has led a situation where if their children manage to graduate from university, for the most part they are unable to get a job paying more than a qualified worker. This situation has got worse under the Chavista regime and its "Socialism for the 21st Century" which seeks to massively extended poverty and precariousness, through "levelling" society downwards;

- according to the incessant campaigns of the government, based on the typical methods of the left, society is divided by social struggles between "the poor and the rich"[5], thus hiding the fundamental division of society: between the proletariat and capital. Behind the campaign that says that university students are the children of the rich is the necessity for the government to try and increase its control of the universities in order to put in place its populist project of the massification of higher education, which it has not been able to impose until now because this sector is controlled by opposition forces and because of the discrediting of the government within the universities. It is possible that many of the critics of our position have been influenced by sympathy for Chavismo, a government that condemns and tries to criminalise any movement of genuine protest.

In no way do we deny that the student sector, due to its characteristics, is strong penetrated by petty bourgeois ideology. However no social movement, including by the workers, is free from the penetration by bourgeois or petty bourgeois ideology, which in Venezuela is expressed through the poison of polarization between fractions of capital, which is aimed at derailing genuine discontent towards capitalist aims. The future development of student movements and other social movements will depend upon their capacity to unite with workers' struggles.

Faced with the absence of widespread workers' struggles in Venezuela (though we are seeing the beginnings of this) the movement of the students was diluted into the bourgeois confrontation between the government and opposition, into the choice between declaring itself in favour or against the constitutional reform proposed by Chávez in 2007. Today, various leaders of the movement are candidates in the coming mayoral and governorship elections to be held in October 2008.

Nevertheless, this does not negate the characteristics that the movement had in May 2007, nor will it stop the development of new movements in this sector, since the economic and social crisis is not only continuing but worsening at an accelerating pace.

Internacionalismo, April 2007

Section of the International Communist Current in Venezuela



[1] See http://www.revleft.com/vb/venezuela-student-discussion

[2] Before we published our position, a leaflet in support of the movement was distributed by a sympathizer of the ICC, a student of the Central University of Venezuela, which we have published on our website: http://en.internationalism.org/wr/307/ven-students-leaflet

[3] The opposition media highlighted more the demands against the closure of the RCTV television channel or for freedom of expression; whilst the official media criminalised the movement, accusing it of being promoted by the "oligarchy" and "imperialism"

[4] According to the figures of the Planning Office of the University Sector in 200; see www.cnu.gov.ve.

[5] One has to ask in which universities do the children of the Bolivarian bourgeoisie study. Many of them for certain study in the best private universities in the country and abroad, faced with the progressive deterioration of education in the public universities.

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