On the 90th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution Celia Hart Calls for Socialist Revolution in Venezuela and for a “First Declaration of Caracas

Bolivarians, you have a world to defend!”


[Editors’ Note: The following article by Celia Hart was hastily translated by Ana Portela for CubaNews. The translation, here edited by Labor Standard, was first posted to the Internet on Nov. 7, 2007. The Spanish original may be found on the Venezuelan web site Aporrea. Click here.

In the evening, on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007, former Defense Minister Raul Baduel held a press conference calling on Venezuelans to vote “No” on the 69 changes to Venezuela’s 1999 Bolivarian Constitution being proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Baduel declared that if the reforms were adopted, it would amount to a “coup d’etat” by Chávez. Chávez has since denounced Baduel as a traitor to their former common cause. See below, for an article from the Cuban revolutionary newspaper Granma, which follows the present article by Celia Hart. The referendum vote on the constitutional reforms is scheduled for Dec. 2, 2007. Coincidentally, Dec. 2 is the same date as the one in 1956 when the yacht Granma, with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and 80 other guerrilla fighters, landed on Cuba’s southeast shores to begin the revolutionary war that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959. — Labor Standard]


We are on the brink of celebrating the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution, that beautiful, cherished uprising that asked for nobody’s permission to make a reality of the hopes that the world might one day belong to those who work on it.

“Bread, land, and peace” was the battle cry of the working class in Petrograd, even if many of those workers had only heard Lenin’s voice a couple of times.

Leon Trotsky proved to be right: the Russian people supported the Councils of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants Delegates (the Soviets), which took the Winter Palace and forced Kerensky to take his petty ideas [about compromising with capitalism] and rush out the back door like greased lightning.

Ninety years later, history is repeating itself in the young Bolivarian revolution. Having learned their lesson, its enemies are poking their heads up everywhere, resolved this time to prevent “Fidel’s bearded men from entering Havana.”

What defies all logic is that such aims are being voiced by the retired General Raúl Isaías Baduel, who without batting an eyelid is railing against Hugo Chávez’s plans to change the Venezuelan Magna Charta? But then again, is it really that illogical? Is the enemy perhaps so close that he goes unnoticed? Or is it really that perhaps imperialism and the oligarchy are trying to create another “11th”? Two of them, in fact: April 11, 2002, in Caracas; and September 11, 1973, in Chile!

Baduel said in a press conference that if  the constitutional reforms were approved, it would actually be a coup d’état.”

No one pretends to deprive him of his constitutional right to criticize. Yet, criticizing is one thing, as in the case of many comrades who have let it be known that they’re unhappy about certain reforms in their factories, battalions, etc. But that former Secretary of Defense Baduel urges people “not to be fooled” barely a month before a popular referendum to decide no less than the path to socialism is another matter altogether. Who will fool them, the National Assembly? That’s not making proper use of his constitutional right by a long shot. The most innocent of assessments would label him irresponsible. At best, he’s exercising the same constitutional right of the opposition, namely that of the business world, the Catholic hierarchy, and a few other social subjects.

And may no one expect us to believe there’s nothing behind General Baduel’s statements to the press conference.

A coup d’état—and by treachery—is what he’s offering his people and his revolution. Let him and every other potential Kerensky leave by the back door! And the same goes for any others who might still be in the Miraflores Palace.

This recalls another instance: in Cuba, on January 1, 1959, as Batista fled through the back door of his Presidential Palace, given the imminence of the rebel army’s victory following the unprecedented battle that our Che waged in the city of Santa Clara, the counterrevolution attempted a move wearing a constitutional and democratic disguise. At the time, Fidel was in Santiago de Cuba.

It was there where Fidel, the most sagacious leader ever to match revolutionary coherence and opportunity, shouted the slogan “Revolution YES, Coup d’état NO”... no less suitable, it seems, to the Venezuelan revolutionaries nowadays.

Despite the theoreticians’ prayers about how times have changed, the essence of it cannot be denied.

By going on a general strike we put an end to anyone’s intentions of snatching the revolution away from us. And there you have it. We’re still around.

May the Venezuelan people be able to protect what they have built over the years, even centuries, from any scheme or technicality based on inaccuracies in the reforms!

Revolution YES, Venezuelans (adding all the necessary criticisms or annotations that these new times demand). Treason or Coup d’état, NO.

Going the eighteenth-century constitutional route is pointless, since such constitutions have been far surpassed by socialist ideas, whether or not Baduel likes it or understands the term socialism.

Nor is it even necessary to mention the Bolsheviks to him. Suffice it to remember the nineteenth century in the Americas (“this America”). Constitutional Europe sanctified the misappropriation of our land. Now that’s what withholding power is about.

Young José Martí was flabbergasted when the newly founded Spanish Republic, for all the air of liberty it had, refused to grant Cuba its independence.

“The incapacity does not lie with the emerging country [of Cuba] (…); it lies rather with those who attempt to rule nations (…) by means of laws inherited from four decades of freedom in the United States and [many] centuries of monarchy in France. A decree by Hamilton does not halt the charge of the plainsman’s horse (...) Government must originate inside the country. The spirit of government must be that of the country,” José Martí declared in his as yet misunderstood essay “Our America.”

It would also be worthwhile these days to read about Simón Bolívar’s adventures with various “Constitutions” and his ferocious intellectual fight to put into practice what José Martí said one year later: “To the country what belongs to the country and nothing more than what it needs.”

Let’s reread, then, the Angostura speech by the Liberator [Bolívar], where he shows his permanent and painful longing (angustia) to form a government for “Gran Colombia.”

[See Editors’ Note on Gran Colombia, at the end of this article.]

And that’s what you have in your hands today, comrades. The people of Venezuela have shown themselves to be hard to fool, aware as they are of what they aim to achieve with the reforms.

Let’s slam the door in the face of this new breed of Santanders [Santander was a former colleague of Bolívar who turned against him], so that the constitutional reforms reach all of us in the Americas (“our America”).

Let’s hope that, come December 2, when the Venezuelan people recall in the polls the landing of the Granma yacht, we will be able to dream of and reflect on the Constitution of a [new] Gran Colombia with neither boundaries nor flags, as Cuban Foreign Minister comrade Felipe Pérez Roque said in his recent and brilliant speech to the United Nations.

Let all the Bolivarian organizations mobilize a massive outpouring of the people like the one which put Chávez back in power on April 13, 2002! Let no one stay at home, waiting for the treacherous bourgeois television to tell us fairy tales while it stabs the revolution in the back, this revolution which has been overly indulgent toward the so-called democratic canons concerning three separate branches of government!

What is at stake these days is not the reforms to the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, but a revolution as significant to all of us everywhere as the shots fired by the cruiser Aurora in Petrograd 90 years ago [during the taking of the Winter Place, Nov. 7, 1917].

There will be time to see to what extent a reform can represent the revolution, a matter we will all have to solve in due time. I shudder to think of Rosa Luxemburg’s prophecies.

But that’s a topic to be discussed some other time. José Martí rightly said: “Either aims are set for the Revolution, or the Revolution will set off aimlessly.” If they disrupt the referendum on the reforms and try once again to manipulate us with their money and to rig elections...then the aimless Revolution will begin.

All out for Venezuela, where the world’s future is being decided, along with the fate of my revolution—which, incidentally, has wasted no breath on half-measures in almost 50 years of life, to the extent that [the first] four years were enough to send shivers down capitalism’s spine.

Comrades from Venezuela, you are the continuators of the Cuban revolution. By protecting your revolution you are giving our small, besieged island the reward it deserves, you are giving our Fidel, ill though he may be, the reward he deserves, for he’s still protecting you despite his illness, and never did he need any constitution to carry out and maintain the first socialist revolution in the Western world and the only one that’s still standing—waiting for yours.

The streets of Caracas should shake with the cry of “Socialism YES, Capitalism NO.”

If we ever need the constitution for that purpose, fine! However, let the goals of these reforms be clear to everyone.

Let the traitors, the rats, and the fence sitters run out the back door. It would be a sure sign of an effective fumigation.

There were traitors and renegades in Lenin’s Russia, in China, and also here in Cuba. It was because of the military traitor Huber Matos that we lost our unforgettable Camilo Cienfuegos.

That’s why the rallying cry is YES: Yes to the socialist revolution. We in Cuba were shouting it to imperialism a mere two years after the triumph [the overthrow of Batista on Jan. 1, 1959]. “That’s what the United States can’t forgive, that we’ve made a socialist revolution right under their nose,” said Fidel [on April 16, 1961] in front of a crowd inflamed with passion. A few hours later there came the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a few more hours after that we had kicked them out of here. Yet many scholars still question from the comfort of their easy chairs whether or not Fidel was compelled by the circumstances to become a socialist!

I’m sure some will say things were different then, and they’re right. Regardless of that, when the time comes to think and take stock, we’ll have to admit the Cuban revolution has been the most “efficient” of all—and I’m being anything but chauvinistic. Now the continuity of this revolution of Fidel and Che Guevara relies on the efficiency of the Venezuelan revolutionaries.

Let the YES to the reforms of the 69 articles in the Venezuelan Constitution become a YES to the socialist revolution led by the Comandante [Chávez] born in the state of Barinas! Every factory, school, and revolutionary household in Venezuela must stay awake, so that the Earth loses no sleep.

In the meantime, those of us across the seas and beyond rivers and jungles must set in motion every revolutionary media (the only ones I trust) to keep the revolution from falling victim to another coup. By the grace of communication, we must put our keyboards and cameras at the disposal of the Bolivarian revolution and put up an information network to provide the Venezuelans with feedback [and a protective umbrella].

Capitalism is said to have created its own gravediggers, the proletariat. I would add that it also gave us the Internet to do battle.

As to Comandante Chávez, now he can take off the tricolor sash [of the Presidency], put on his red beret, recover from the flu so that his voice (his best weapon) can get even better and, together with his people and millions of others elsewhere who stand by his project, emulate the First Declaration of Havana with a First Declaration of Caracas, a Declaration of Principles in front of the beautiful Venezuelan people and for all peoples of the world.

Both the First and the Second Declarations of Havana look fresh off the press, so I am hereby urging my friends, my readers, to check for themselves. Just replace some countries with others and you’ll see.

And let Comandante Chávez tell the gringos—and their local oligarchs, who forever will be the last card in the pack, as Che assured us—to beware of their own “11s,” because Caracas will live forever on the 13th, if it comes to that.

And right after that, “Shake the tree, Chávez!”—as they used to chant in Havana almost 50 years ago—“Make the rotten oranges fall once and for all!”

Let’s all unite against those who think it’s possible to snatch the dream of a Bolivarian Venezuela out of the world’s hands. And let’s do it through a socialist revolution, so that this time the good Simón Bolívar doesn’t have to plow the sea. He can return instead, splendid and happy, from Santa Marta to Caracas. And this time for good.

Ever onward to victory!

Socialism or Death!


Editors’ Note on Gran Colombia:  Gran Colombia (in English also called Greater Colombia) was a republic founded by Simón Bolívar in 1819. It united the former Spanish territories of Nueva Granada (consisting of present-day Colombia and Panama) and Venezuela, all of which had been liberated from Spain under Bolívar’s leadership. It was Bolívar’s goal to unite all of Spanish America—following the example of the thirteen former British colonies in North America, which had merged to form the United States only a couple of decades before the fight for independence in South America began.

Bolívar left Gran Colombia to liberate Ecuador, Lower Peru (which today is Peru), and Upper Peru (which today is Bolivia). Ecuador was liberated from Spain in 1822 and also became part of the republic of Gran Colombia. Earlier, liberation fighters from Argentina, led primarily by José de San Martín, had freed most of what are now Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile from Spanish rule, as well as part of Peru. After an agreement between Bolívar and San Martín, the latter withdrew and Bolívar led the forces that completed the task of ending Spanish rule in Lower and Upper Peru. In honor of Bolívar’s role as liberator, Upper Peru took the name Bolivia.

Bolívar hoped that Peru and Bolivia would join Gran Colombia and that all the newly independent former Spanish colonies would unite into a single federation. He held a Pan-American congress in Panama in 1826, but nothing came of it. Unification, in Bolívar’s view, would enable the former colonies to preserve their independence against other world powers, especially Britain, France, Spain, and, increasingly, the rising power of the United States in North America. It was in December 1923, after all, that the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed by the then-U.S. president, James Monroe, implying exclusive U.S. rights, as against European powers, to exert influence and claim possessions in the Western Hemisphere.

However, no further unification of former Spanish colonies took place. Worse yet, Venezuela and Ecuador broke away from Gran Colombia, which then ceased to exist. Only the name “Colombia” survives as a partial reminder of Bolívar’s vision. Bitterly disappointed at the failure of his attempts to unify Spanish America, he said before his death in 1930 (in Santa Marta, Colombia), “Those who serve the revolution plow the sea.”

Many revolutionaries in Latin America and the Caribbean today seek to revive Bolívar’s vision of unification. As Che Guevara, who traveled by motorcycle through much of the region in the early 1950s, commented in the mid-1960s, the region has (for the most part) a very similar culture and two very closely related languages [Spanish and Portuguese], as well as a common enemy, U.S. imperialism, providing a firm material basis for unification.

Just as, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, many small German-speaking states united into a single Germany (except for Austria and, partly, Switzerland) and many Italian-speaking states united into a single Italy, the aspiration for a united Latin America and Caribbean is a powerful vision common not only to Simón Bolívar and to José Marti, the Cuban liberation leader of the 1890s, but also to many of their descendants today. The project that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez are seeking to carry through with ALBA (and similar initiatives, such as the Bank of the South) is heading in that direction and is explicitly aimed at countering the corporate-inspired “Free Trade Area of the Americas” advocated by Wall Street and Washington.


GRANMA

November 5, 2007

Chávez Reaffirms Confidence in Armed Forces

CARACAS, November 5 —Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez voiced his confidence in the loyalty of the Armed Forces and called former Defense Minister Raul Baduel a traitor after the retired general called for people to vote against constitutional reform.

Chávez said he received calls of support from several generals and other officials, following retired Gen. Baduel’s declarations. He noted that his government will remain alert, saying there was nothing innocent in the words from the ex-official, whom he called “a pawn of the oligarchy, the Catholic hierarchy, and United States imperialism.”

The Venezuelan president dismissed the possibility that Baduel’s position will be well received by any significant body of the National Armed Forces.

“The country needs to rest assured that the necessary force to launch a successful coup d’état or to begin a civil war does not exist,” said Chávez during a telephone call to the Venezuelan television show Contragolpe (Counter-Coup).

 

Chávez said that Baduel’s remarks were contradictory because on the one hand he is asking people to vote against constitutional reform in the December 2 referendum, and on the other hand he said he wouldn’t recognize the legitimacy of a Yes victory.