[Venezuelanalysis.com's Kiraz Janicke argues that the latest round of opposition mobilisations, the ostensibly “spontaneous” student mobilisations in defense of private television station RCTV, have once again for the opposition inadvertently produced an undesired result - the revitalisation of Venezuela’s revolutionary student movement.]
Venezuela’s Resurgent Revolutionary Student Movement
By Kiraz Janicke – Venezuelanalysis.com
Monday, September 03, 2007
The old adage about the whip of the counter-revolution driving forward the revolution has certainly played out in Venezuela over the past few years, with each major offensive of the opposition being met with even greater levels of organization and consciousness of the vast majority of Venezuelans who support President Hugo Chavez and the project of “Socialism in the 21st Century.” In April 2002 the combined force of popular mobilizations and rank and file soldiers loyal to Chavez defeated a US-backed coup by officers who suddenly found themselves with no army to lead. Then, the oil industry lockout, which began in December of that year and continuing into February of 2003, almost crippled the Venezuelan economy and, in the words of Nora Casteneda (President of the Women’s Bank), “woke up the industrial working class, which until that moment had been sleeping.” In the face of strikes and sabotage by PDVSA’s bloated management, lower level oil workers together with soldiers got the state owned oil company up and running again. The third major offensive of the opposition – the recall referendum on Chavez’s presidency in August 2004 also met with resounding defeat as a result of increased levels of popular mobilization in support of Chavez. The subsequent decision of the opposition to boycott the National Assembly elections in 2005, in an orchestrated attempt to discredit the government also backfired, leaving them in a much weaker position to contest the presidential elections in 2006, producing Chavez biggest electoral victory yet, with over 7.3 million votes and the highest participation rate ever in Venezuela’s history.
Similarly, the latest round of opposition mobilizations, the ostensibly “spontaneous”[i] student mobilizations in defense of private television station RCTV (whose license to broadcast on the public spectrum was not renewed on May 27 after the company was charged with violating Venezuelan media laws), have once again for the opposition inadvertently produced an undesired result - the revitalization of Venezuela’s revolutionary student movement.
History of the Student Movement
Venezuela’s revolutionary student movement, which consists of a myriad of different organizations and collectives, is perhaps one of the weakest and most dispersed sectors of the Bolivarian revolution. In 2005 rightwing university authorities managed to mobilize students under the banner of “university autonomy” against the introduction of a new higher education law aimed at increasing university access for the poor and opening the books of the notoriously corrupt traditional universities to make them account for the spending of government funds. These mobilizations, like the recent mobilizations in defense of RCTV prompted many on the left to ask why, when society as a whole was moving forward, did the universities remain under the grip of the old politics?
A brief look at the history of the student movement in Venezuela reveals one of the largest and most militant student movements in Latin America throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During this period, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, many leftwing groups went underground to carry out guerilla struggle against the Punto Fijo regime.[ii] Many of these same groups established their aboveground organizations or “political wing” on university campuses across Venezuela. As a result, many activists moved into academia and a current of left-wing thought began to permeate throughout the universities, generating a powerful student movement for a period of almost twenty years.
The general response of the Punto Fijo governments was to carry out waves of repression. Many times universities were shut down and student leaders assassinated. Almost every day the Venezuelan daily Diario VEA carries an article on its history page commemorating the lives of student and trade union activists murdered by the Punto Fijo regime. A mural at the University Los Andes, Merida quotes one of the most famous — Domingo Salazar, who was assassinated in 1979: “They say we are the future, yet they kill us in the present.” This repression continued well into the 1980s with the Cantaura massacre of members of Bandera Roja in 1982, in which 23 people were killed and the Yumare massacre of another left wing student group in 1986.
(click here to view entire article)