By Juventud de Izquierda Revolucionaria (public faction of the PRS), from Caracas
The major media throughout the world and especially the CNN media chain are seizing upon Chávez’s measure to cancel the license of the right-wing opposition-controlled RCTV television station to launch an attack campaign on Venezuela masked behind the banner of “freedom of the press”.
-After the recent announcement by the Chávez government not to renew the broadcast license for RCTV, there have been a series of demonstrations in support of and against the government’s measures. The reactionary Right, supported by US imperialism, has held numerous mobilizations throughout the country under the deceitful banners of freedom of expression. The U.S. Congress, the Department of State and to the Inter-American Press Society (SIP) run by the barons of big media have come out in support of the demonstrations. This is all the more cynical when we consider that American imperialism has not only restricted and liquidated all freedom of the press in Iraq but also subjected its people to a military occupation. But even more detestable are the banners raised by the domestic reaction led by the coup organizer Marcel Granier, owner of RCTV and “his” freedom of the press. The coup-plotting Right wing has rallied behind these deceitful and cynical slogans when it was they themselves who shut down all media of the Chávez government and the left-wing press, maintaining an absolute monopoly over all television and press in order to impose a plan of colonization upon the country at the orders of US imperialism. In the first hours of the short-lived dictatorship of business, they withdrew all democratic freedoms won by the people, offered direct support for the coup by putting together montages which skewed all reality of the events, orchestrating and broadcasting every declaration of the reactionary generals, publicly circulating “the wanted list” of the dictatorship’s repressive crusade, and concealing the demonstrations of the working people against the pro-imperialist government of Carmona. We revolutionaries were in the first ranks together with millions of the working people to defeat the offensive of the imperialist and domestic reaction on April 13 and we will be there once more should such a situation again arise.
-We insist that the media in the hands of business owners is a tremendous threat to the workers and to the people. Media in the hands of Capital is an tool for the spreading of bourgeois propaganda and as long as it remains in their hands, the freedom of expression of the working class and the poor will always be limited. Our country continues to face constant threats by imperialism and the domestic agents of the reaction which control 80% of the major television and newspaper chains throughout the country and which led the coup of April 2002 and the oil industry strike and sabotage under orders from the American embassy.
-Many have understood the recent measures of Chávez to end the broadcast license of RCTV to be a measure of self-defense against the constant aggression of this channel and for this reason, Chávez has received the absolute support of the majority of the Left in the country. Certainly, Marcel Granier and his ilk are the great standard-bearers of the American and domestic reaction. But it is no less true that Chávez himself has made pacts with the rest of the major media barons in the country including even the known coup-plotter Gustavo Cisneros, a business owner with major media holdings in many Latin American nations and even in the Latin-American cradle of the reactionaries-Miami. The same day the RCTV license ended, many privately-owned channels also expired, including Venvisión owned by the Cisneros family but Chávez renewed their license for an additional 20 years. Even the Globovison chain, which together with RCTV spearheaded the coup and events of 2002 and 2003 today operates freely as a result of the pacts. Conducting deals with the reactionary big media, with Cisneros at the head, demonstrates that, in fact, that this has nothing to do with measures of self-defense on the part of the government but rather with teaching a lesson to those coup-plotting sectors which do not accept the balance of power favorable to the government while rewarding those which do, like Cisneros, and for the moment, conveniently become “democrats”.
-As revolutionaries, we firmly believe that it is essential to conduct a tireless struggle against the reactionary media and press. Furthermore, we believe that the most effective manner to combat the media and the press that the bourgeoisie presently continue to hold in order to maintain their dominance and system of exploitation is to take them into our own hands, building and extending the media and the press of the working class and the poor in the service of their true interests. Under no circumstances do we think that as a result of the restrictive measures of the State towards the reactionary media and press the workers, peasants and poor can free themselves of the influence of the reactionary ideas and the prevailing thinking of the capitalist class. In fact, only the greatest freedoms of expression, press and assembly can create the favorable conditions for the advancement of a revolutionary movement of the working class and the poor. Yet there are plenty of examples of the government’s restriction of the free expression of the workers in the State media. It suffices to mention that the massive regional strike in the state of Aragua on 22 May was expressly prohibited to be broadcast by the State press and television channels; a strike which called for the realization of their demands and stood in solidarity with the workers of the Sanatarios Maracay factory-occupied and run under worker management, against the repression carried out by the National Guard-answering to the Ministry of the Interior and Justice-and denounced the complicity of the Minister of Labor and the other instances of the State’s involvement with business owners. Neither VTV, Vive TV, Ávila TV, the daily newspaper VEA nor the ABN agency to list only a few examples covered this important struggle as it objectively questioned the government policies headed by the Minister of Labor. Exactly the same occurred three months earlier when the struggle of the fishermen of Puerto de Güiria was violently put down by the National Guard. The government encourages the alternative press but not when they question major national policies like its dealings and pacts with big-business including big media in the hands of tycoons.
-At present, the government has revoked the RCTV license while at the same time striking deals with the rest of the major media barons. Thus it is incapable of taking any measure like the immediate expropriation without compensation of all big media and placing them under the unrestricted control of the workers’, peasants’ and popular organizations. Actions of this sort can only be carried out by the organizations of the exploited themselves, as was done recently by the workers and the people of Oaxaca who seized several of the reactionary television and radio stations and press by direct action and used them to broadcast in the service of their struggle-not for a government which argues for a “socialism with business owners”. This is what must be done in Venezuela with all media-television, radio and press-should there be any coups or attacks on the part of imperialism or the domestic reactionaries as happened in 2002. Venezuela continues to be a bourgeois state which operates plainly under the logic and control of the capitalists and despite talk of a participatory democracy of “21st Century Socialism”, we see that in reality we continue to live under the rule of bourgeois society.
-Historical reality has shown that with any restriction of democracy in bourgeois society, those who end up shouldering the burden of these measures are the working people and the poor. For this reason, we maintain that the workers must secure the complete freedom of press by their own methods and organizations, and not by the fist of the state apparatus as a substitution for this struggle. Currently, the State and the government with their rhetoric of “21st Century Socialism” and “against” capitalism, may appear to be on the side of the workers and popular organizations but by leaving untouched the fundamental interests of the ruling class, it has ceded ground for to the domestic reaction to rear its head, as it is now doing, and avoids the possibility of an advancement on the part of the exploited and oppressed. The final outcome can only be that the most reactionary elements of the bourgeoisie re-take political control, this time more forcefully. In this case, any restrictive legislation which exists would be directed against the workers and the people. The working class must trust only in its own methods of struggle and forge its own media through direct action, following the example of the workers and the people of Oaxaca, putting the media in the service of their own struggle rather than tailing Bonapartist measures against the freedom of the press, even when against the reactionary media, because sooner or later this sort of governmental measure will be used against them. As Leon Trotsky states in his brilliant work on the Freedom of the press and the working class, “Theory, as well as historic experience, testify that any restriction to democracy in bourgeois society, is eventually directed against the proletariat, just as taxes eventually fall on the shoulders of the proletariat. Bourgeois democracy is usable by the proletariat only insofar as it opens the way for the development of the class struggle. Consequently, any workers “leader” who arms the bourgeois state with special means to control public opinion in general, and the press in particular, is a traitor. In the last analysis, the accentuation of class struggle will force bourgeois of all shades, to conclude a pact: to accept special legislation, and every kind of restrictive measures, and measures of “democratic” censorship against the working class. Those who have not yet realized this, should leave the ranks of the working class.”
We encourage workers and honest militants, students, and intellectuals to read this important work of Trotsky’s. Only the workers, using their methods of struggle, can overcome the limits on bourgeois freedom of expression and not by handing over responsibility to bourgeois democracy itself. We call upon the working class, and in particular the workers of the trade-union current CCURA to fight with their own methods and to enter into a decided struggle for the true freedom of expression on the road to forging an independent workers’ and peoples’ press and media against the monopoly imposed by the media tycoons and the restrictions of the government as witnessed during the struggle of the workers of Sanatarios Maracay. The only way to fight back against the reactionary ideas and prejudices which the bourgeoisie has managed to instill through their media and ideology in the workers is to construct a workers’ media and press against the ideology and politics of the bourgeoisie which, in the case of our country, means fighting against the ideology and project of bourgeois nationalist development of the government as well as against the restrictions the bourgeois press places on coverage of the workers’ struggles and their demands, which in this case was also done by the government.
-In the battles in the streets, when and if that the reactionaries attempt a offensive similar to the events of 2002, we are not neutral. We are in the front ranks as we were together with the people and the workers on April 13 when we brought down the domestic reactionaries acting under the auspices of the United States. But we consider that for the struggle to be carried through to the end and to deal a decisive blow to the reaction, the absolute freedom of organization and press of the workers is essential. No sort of restrictive measure, no measures of government censorship in general and especially against the working class are permissible. The workers must provide themselves with an independent media and press which expresses our needs, defends our interests, broadens our horizons and prepares the way for a true socialist revolution in the country.
* Translation by Robert Kaplan