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Listen to Venezuela
Video/TV/DVD Review by Steve Henshall, October 2009
Directors Mike Wayne and Deirdre O'Neill
Over the past decade Venezuela has become a focus for socialists and activists across the world. It has shown us a glimpse of the possibilities of a mass fightback from below and of ordinary people working shoulder to shoulder to define their own future.
Listen to Venezuela takes the viewer on a rapid tour of the vibrant and diverse movements that are encompassed within the Bolivarian process. Rather than standing to the side, this documentary introduces you to the real faces of Venezuela with all their passion and strength to change the conditions around them. From the social schemes and communal councils in the barrios (shanty towns) to worker-run factories, it gives you a real flavour of democracy on the ground and how past struggles have brought people together to organise collectively.
It puts all this into historical context with a clear analysis of the developments leading up to the government of Hugo Chavez.
Importantly it covers the fact that Venezuela saw a huge growth in the oil industry around 100 years ago which effectively destroyed other areas of the economy, especially agriculture, leading to the migration towards the urban barrios. It also goes into the longstanding political pact between conservative leaders of the past and the easy ride given to US imperialism in taking advantage of the country's massive reserves of oil.
Directors Mike Wayne and Deirdre O'Neill include rarely seen photographs from the upsurge of resistance in the riots of 1989 reflecting the volatility of that time, the brutality of state repression and how this opened a path for change in the country.
Listen to Venezuela gives a brilliant introduction to the dynamics of the Bolivarian process and the grassroots structures that have developed. But it sadly misses the important questions facing the working class and urban poor at the moment and tends to skim over many of the contradictory features of the Bolivarian process, such as the referendum of 2007 and the role of the governing United Socialist Party. A critical analysis is needed to question what has objectively been achieved to wrest power from the ruling class in Venezuela today.
The documentary leaves a few minutes at the end to ask activists about how they see the future and the next steps that need to be taken, but I feel that such opinions and ideas are critical at the moment.
The recent coup in Honduras shows how nervous the Latin American ruling class are, but also how the tide can be turned very quickly. The movement in Venezuela has many hurdles to overcome, and this documentary would have benefited from exploring in more detail the arguments about the tasks ahead.
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