How Venezuela’s Revolutionary Leadership and Popular Media Come Together

Danny Shaw

BY DANNY SHAW

In January 2020, Donald Trump’s puppet in Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, met with reactionary British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and right-wing Colombian President Iván Duque. After losing an election as head of the National Assembly on Jan. 5, Guaidó traveled abroad in a desperate attempt to try to shore up support from the most reactionary quarters for his golpista project. Most recently, Guaidó attended Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4, where he was lauded by the imperialists as the so-called “real president” of Venezuela. As if the hundreds of U.S. military invasions of Latin American and the Caribbean since 1898 were not enough, the great Venezuelan “patriot” now wants Trump and the U.S. to invade Venezuela.

Despite all of these offensives, however, the besieged people of Venezuela continue to build their Bolivarian Revolution. One way in which they are resisting imperialism is by strengthening their alternative, non-corporate and people-powered media. While private news corporations that propagate right-wing lies still exist in the country, the Bolivarian Revolution has developed revolutionary media that combat and debunk rampant misinformation. Not only are these alternative outlets embraced by Venezuela’s working class; they are also supported by the country’s top revolutionary leadership, which understands the importance of independent media in the war against imperialism.

Venezuela’s Revolutionary Leadership

As Ernesto “Che” Guevara thoroughly explains in “Socialism and the New (Wo)man in Cuba,” a revolution needs revolutionary leadership and cadre to guide it forward.

Every Wednesday evening, Diosdado Cabello, the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, hosts a television program that unites thousands of Chavistas and reaches millions of workers and campesinos who tune in from home. El Mazo Dando is just one example of a powerful, people-run media outlet that the Venezuelan masses have built since 1999. The surest proof that Cabello is an effective revolutionary leader is the hatred he, President Nicolás Maduro, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and other Chavista dirigentes stir up among the pitiyanquis and their imperial backers.

Cabello, one of the key leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution, is a military captain who coordinated a 1992 rebellion alongside Comandante Hugo Chávez and led four tanks against former neoliberal President Carlos Andrés Pérez. As one of the founders of the Bolivarian Circles, he converses for hours every day with Venezuela’s marginalized and historically-forgotten sectors of society. One of the shows hashtags encapsulates its class nature: #UnidadLuchaBatallaYVictoria (#UnityStruggleBattle&Victory).

Cabello, an example of Antonio Gramsci’s organic intellectual, elevates mass understanding of the dialectic between external pressures and internal challenges, taking the form of U.S. hybrid war and the Venezuelan people’s fierce resistance. El Mazo Dando is the heir to Aló Presidente (Hello, Mr. President), Chávez’s popular weekly television program, where he provided political education for viewers throughout the country, traveling and speaking with different communities about local and international struggles. Chávez used this direct political education to foster participatory democracy.

Diosdado Cabello hosts El Mazo Dando in Venezuela. | Source: VTV

Not Just a Show, But a Revolutionary Concert and Experience

Patria Nueva (New Fatherland), a chorus of children “armed with guitars, drums and voices that sing beautifully,” open the program performing patriotic songs. This is followed by a musical performance by the Bolivarian Armed Forces. Cabello then walks to three bulletin boards, where he has printed out a series of right-wing, pro-U.S. headlines. One by one, he focuses on each tweet, shedding light on the hardline opposition’s connections to U.S. government officials, their infighting over corruption and the moral bankruptcy within the disintegrating Guaidó camp. Mocking and exposing the true nature of the fractionalized, radical opposition, he cultivates profound love and faith in the revolutionary process.

Here it is, La Universidad Para Todos (The University for All), as it is called in Cuba. The program evolved out of centuries of revolutionary pedagogy. In the words of Cuban independence hero Jose Martí, “To be educated is to be free.” Cabello explains that this massively popular show is but one result of “the space Chávez and the Bolivarian process opened for popular media and for a new hegemony.”

Chávez’s Legacy is Stronger Than Ever

El Mazo Dando, which has no set end time, then cuts to three to five minute clips of Chávez’s historical speeches. During the filming of Aló Presidente No. 188, the revolution’s leader clarified what was la patria y la anti-patria (the fatherland and the anti-fatherland) and the historical crime of “surrendering Venezuela’s oil to foreign corporations.” Chávez emphasized that “Venezuelans were not inferior to anybody,” despite all of the neocolonial propaganda to which they had been subjected to.

The energy is electric as the crowd dances, bounces and erupts into chants:

Fascista, Fascista,
qué quieres el coroto.
El peo no es solo con Maduro.
¡El peo es con nosotros!

(Fascist, Fascist,
you want the presidential seat.
Your beef is not just with Maduro.
Your beef is with all of us!)

and

Chávez no se murió, se multiplicó.
¡Se hizo millones, Chávez soy yo!

(Chávez did not die, he multiplied.
He is millions, I am Chávez!)

The chants fade into the singing of patriotic Venezuelan songs as the crowd marches on the street. This was no television show; this was a revolutionary concert and a demonstration of the popular support for Chavismo, 22 years into the process. While watching the show, a veteran school teacher once poked me with her elbow in the ribs, chuckling: “It’s time to make fun of the escuálidos (a pejorative term for the right-wing elites, meaning squalid or meager based on a Chávez speech). It’s time for us to have our say. This is not a show; this a revolutionary experience.”

Venezuela, which has been on the frontlines in the struggle against imperialism for the past two decades, provides an example of what socialist leadership and people’s media should look like. The Bolivarian Revolution is actively supporting content producers who are waging war against misinformation and deception. They are also providing a radical alternative to capitalist-imperialist media, which glorify individualism, greed and decadence. Furthermore, unlike in most countries under the control of Wall Street, its top political leaders are actively supporting revolutionary, non-corporate media. Venezuela undoubtedly serves as a model for all socialists and communists around the world who want to equip their national revolutions with the weapon of people-powered media.

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