Radical media, politics and culture.

Gregory Wilpert, "Chavez and Gramsci"

Chavez Dismisses International Disapproval of Venezuela's Media Policy

Hundreds of Thousands March in Support of Chavez

Gregory Wilpert

As several hundred thousand Chavez supporters rallied in Venezuela's
largest avenue on Saturday, President Chavez rejected all international
interference with his decision not to renew a television station's
broadcast license. Referring to the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci,
Chavez also spoke at length about how private media maintains a cultural
hegemony that must be broken.

"Go to hell, representatives of the global oligarchy, we are a free
country!" said Chavez to wild applause, once marchers reached the
Avenida Bolivar in the center of Caracas. The demonstration converged on
the avenue from two starting points, one in the east of the city and the
other towards the city's south. Unofficial estimates of the number of
demonstrators ranged from 300,000 to 500,000.
Chavez said he did not care that the world media was presenting him as a
new Hitler or Mussolini. "What I do care about," said Chavez, "is the
sovereignty of the Venezuelan homeland."

"The international elite are worried, they fear that the example of
Venezuela will extend to other countries where they believe that they
are the masters of everything," continued Chavez during his relatively
short one and a half hour speech. Every destabilization plan, warned
Chavez, will be "responded with a new revolutionary offensive."

Chavez also said it was sad that university students have been
demonstrating in support of RCTV. "It continues to be sad that some
students take to the streets - to defend what? ... On whose side will
they place themselves, on the side of the people or of the oligarchy, of
the homeland or of the North American empire?" adding that the vast
majority of students are on the side of the people. The images of
student protests are just part of a "giant manipulation, a gross media

For Chavez, what is happening in Venezuela is very similar to what the
U.S. has helped organize in eastern European countries, in the so-called
"colored revolutions," such as in Ukraine, where demonstrators succeeded
in overthrowing the government.

Chavez also reminded his supporters that his reelection on December 3rd
was merely the beginning of a new phase in his presidency, of creating
socialism and that so far much had been achieved. Chavez mentioned that
the "re-nationalization" of the oil industry had been finalized and that
the new Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been launched
and announced that until now 4,735,000 Venezuelans have been registered
as applicants to be activists in the new party.

Antonio Gramsci as Key for Understanding Events in Venezuela

The thought of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci is fundamental,
according to Chavez, for making sense of what is happening in Venezuela
today. "I want to refer to the thought of Gramsci, to use his ideas,
using the light of his thought, every day we understand better what is
happening here today in Venezuela."

Thus Chavez launched into one his longest and most detailed talks on the
thought of Gramsci, explaining Gamsci's concept of "historical blocs,"
in which a particular class manages to acquire hegemony that is
expressed in structures and super-structures. The super-structure,
explained Chavez, consists of two levels, of the institutions of the
state and of the civil society. The civil society, according to Chavez's
explanation of Gramsci, consists of economic and private institutions,
through which the dominant class spreads its ideology.

The conflict in Venezuela can thus be understood as one between the
institutions of the state, which used to be controlled by this civil
society, but no longer is, and the old civil society. To this old civil
society, according to Gramsci, belong the Catholic Church hierarchy, the
mass media, and the education system as the principal institutions. The
dominant classes use these institutions to disseminate their ideologies,
explained Chavez.

This ideology of the dominant classes is disseminated in a variety of
levels of abstraction, with philosophy being the most abstract. Below
this level are belief systems such a neo-liberalism, the free market,
the thesis of freedom of expression, of bourgeois democracy, of division
of powers, representation as foundation of democracy. These are "Big
lies!" exclaimed Chavez, with which for over a 100 years hegemony has
been exercised.

On a third level is common sense, which is "the product of being bathed
in the dominant philosophy and of the ideology in different forms, via
soap operas, movies, songs, propaganda, billboards..." said Chavez.

The fourth level is "folklore," whereby people simply express a
preference as a result of manipulation, without knowing why.

According to Chavez, the Bolivarian movement has been "liberating" the
state, including the judiciary, the legislature, the state-owned
enterprises, from the control of this hegemonic "bourgeois civil

Now this civil society is using its last remaining resources to fight
for power, the Church, the mass media, and the universities. "From there
is the importance of understanding the layout of the battle," said

Chavez also clarified that Venezuela's oligarchy could live with the
Bolivarian Revolution, because "we have no plan to eliminate the
oligarchy, Venezuela's bourgeoisie. We have demonstrated this
sufficiently in over eight years," said Chavez.

"But, if the oligarchy does not understand this, if it does not accept
the call to peace, to live with us, that the great revolutionary
majority is making, if the Venezuelan bourgeoisie continues to
desperately assault, using the refuges it has remaining, well then the
Venezuelan bourgeoisie will continue to lose, one by one, the refuges it
has remaining," declared Chavez.

Directed to Venezuela's bourgeoisie, Chavez said, "We respect you as
Venezuelans, you [should] respect Venezuela, respect the homeland,
respect our constitution, respect our laws. If you do not, you will
regret it, if you do not, we will make you obey Venezuela's laws."

The gathered crowd chanted, "This is how one governs!"