Yesterday, about 70 percent of the Venezuelan populace turned out to vote during a nation-wide referendum—with 54.4 percent voting in favor of a constitutional amendment to eliminate two-term limit for all elected officials—a measure that many countries already have. Even though it applies to all elected officials in the Venezuelan government, the "Yes" vote in the referendum has largely been viewed as a victory for and a validation of the Bolivarian revolution and its revolutionary government headed by Hugo Chavez.
Knowing that a "Yes" vote would have this effect, the mainstream press’ coverage of the lead up to Sunday was filled with misleading information and outright lies about the ramifications of the amendment; one of the more common being that it reflected Chavez’s "dictatorial" desire to "be president for life." The press’ shortcomings run deep and have been analyzed elsewhere; however, there is something that has stood out to me— as a young American revolutionary. Under the guise of being "fair and balanced" and "objective," the mainstream media constantly interviews and quotes youth and students from the Venezuelan opposition, portraying them as the courageous fighters for democracy and, even more troubling, representative of the Venezuelan youth, in general. But, again, this is far from the truth, and from the point of view of trying to understand Venezuela’s revolutionary process, it ignores what Chavez has called the "vanguard" of the revolution—the revolutionary socialist youth.
Over 50 percent of Venezuela is under 30, positioning youth and students to be a key political and social force in shaping whatever direction Venezuela eventually takes, and they already have made their impact. From what is reported and who is quoted, one would think their impact was in opposing Chavez and his call to create 21st Century Socialism. For example, here a few excerpts from a CNN article reporting on the triumphant "yes" vote:
A student leader said earlier Sunday that his colleagues, many of whom had been opposed to passage of the referendum, would honor the results, El Universal newspaper said.
"We, the youth, believe in democracy and believe in the constitution and in any case will recognize the results no matter what they are," said David Smolansky, of the Catholic University Andres Bello.
Hundreds of students packed the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, earlier this month to march in opposition to the proposed amendment.
It is not a long article but it was part of CNN’s breaking news on the event, and those three sentences were the only mention of students and youth. There is no way of even knowing that there is another point of view held by an organized student and youth movement, or that thousands, not just hundreds, of youth marched in favor of the amendment. That is only one article, but it is in line with the dominant narrative by the mainstream media outlets.
The fact is—no matter how much capitalist politicians and their lap dog media try to skew it—these youth and student voices are not representative of the Venezuelan youth, or the population as a whole. The dominant youth trend, actually, is one that embraces the values of the Bolivarian Revolution—values like solidarity, equity, social justice, and participatory democracy. They are active in the various missions in the barrios and actively participate in the emerging Communal Councils. They realize that the current institutions that govern and shape the world are flawed, and have begun taking part in transforming and replacing them with new ones.
Furthermore, thousands of young revolutionaries decided to institutionalize their resistance to capitalism and to further support the revolutionary process by forming Jueventud—the youth wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (J-PSUV). If there is a collective voice, young, vibrant, and energetic, worth the coverage of our media outlets it is them. Their founding document outlined their objective, as reported in Venezuelanalysis.com, "to organize, form and incorporate the Venezuelan youth into militant revolutionaries, as well as to fight for the end of the exclusion, marginalization and discrimination that affects young people and to create spaces to promote equality, freedom, and active participation of all youth." It also "specifies that racist, homophobic, sexist, or other expressions of contempt are incompatible with being a member of the J-PSUV and it is the responsibility of members to take on the integral defense of the country."
Yet, many in the United States wouldn’t know that such a large grouping with such worthwhile ideas exists, which is highly unfortunate. The revolutionary youth of Venezuela should be a source of guidance and inspiration for any young person wanting to make change, so when we—young people—are denied access to their voice, we also lose out. The "opposition," on the other hand, would like to impede the path of progress and maintain oppressive institutions and social norms. If only one side is going to be reported, as CNN did, which one sounds worthy of news coverage?
So, let us highlight the real face of the Venezuelan youth and student movement—the revolutionary youth—and let us congratulate them on yet another exercise of mass democracy. And maybe one day they will congratulate us for our revolution.
John Cronan Jr. is a restaurant worker, organizer, and writer based in New York City, but born and raised in Providence, RI. He is a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), and does student, youth, and union organizing; the latter with the IWW Food and Allied Workers Union 460/640 and a new project in the works. He can be reached at [email protected]