24 May 2006
As I sauntered around the pretty town of Guimarães I came across what I assume is the HQ of the local branch of the Portuguese Communist Party, tucked away in of all places, the heart of the old part of the town, where all the tourists go. I wonder what they make of this symbol as their digital cameras click away? Indeed, does this symbol of an age apparently past, find its way into their picture album? Somehow I doubt it, most may not even be aware of what it represents or that on April 24 1974, the ‘Revolution of the Flowers’ swept away the hated dictatorship of Salazar, an event set in motion thousands of miles away in Portugal’s colonies of Angola and Mozambique as the liberation movements kicked Portuguese military arse.
Guimarães used to be a centre of the Portuguese textile industry but like many other industrial areas of Europe the manufacturing got relocated to sweatshops in Asia or Latin America, so with the help of lavish EU funding, the place has been transformed into yet another ‘heritage’ site and the neighbourhood in which I found this symbol of an assumed bygone age, replete with its inhabitants, teems with tourists who frequent the many up-market fashion boutiques that one finds tucked away in the narrow streets, alleyways and attractive squares.
For obvious reasons that I don’t think need going into here, the ‘powers that be’ figure that socialism is a dead duck except that is, for places like Venezuela. So one has to ask the question, if indeed the duck is dead, why has the capitalist press done a hatchet job on Chavez’ Venezuela? Could it be that the duck is merely sleeping?
If socialism is a dead duck, why the fear and hatred? What is it that has got the capitalists’ knickers in a twist? For in spite of Chavez’ rhetoric, Venezuela is a long way off from being a socialist state no matter what ‘flavour’. The Bolivarian Revolution has a long way to go and the route is torturous with many dangerous obstacles in its path.
The hate and derision campaign against Chavez currently being conducted in the Western media is, perhaps ironically, a throwback to the days of the Cold War, with all the usual clichés about ‘dictatorship’ and Chavez the ‘lose cannon’. Is the Venezuelan duck one that not only quacks but also one that bites and if so, who exactly, is it biting? Certainly not the mass of the people of the UK or the US.
The parallels with 1975 are not lost on me even if they are on the tourists, for the propaganda campaign centred on Chavez reveals that in spite of everything that has happened over the past decades, for most of the planet, not only have things not changed, they have gotten worse.
And, just as the events in far-off Angola and Mozambique triggered a revolution (of sorts) in Portugal, so too, events in far-off Venezuela would seem to be triggering reflexive responses in the UK and the US and for the same reasons.
The ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is dangerous for the example it sets to the rest of the poor of the planet and the propaganda campaign reveals that the West is afraid that its own population could, if left to its own devices, be in sympathy with the people and aspirations of Venezuela.
Okay, the bottom line is, on the surface at least, the oil the West so desperately needs but there’s nothing to stop them simply buying it and at a price considerably cheaper than the current $70 a barrel (Chavez figures $50 a barrel is a reasonable price to pay).
No, the real issue is not the oil but the fact that the people of Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru are saying ‘enough is enough, we want to take charge of our own destinies and not be dictated to by cliques in Washington DC and London’.
Just as Salazar dug a hole in Angola and Mozambique and then lied like hell out of it and finally paid the price for his lies, the rulers of the US and the UK are mortally afraid that events in Venezuela could well reverberate all the way back to their comfortable holes, thus the need to lie about Chavez just as Salazar lied about Amilcar Cabral to the people of Portugal.
The real struggle hasn’t changed one iota, so perhaps there’s a certain justice in happening across the Hammer and Sickle in quaint and picaresque Guimarães.