“Socialism of the 21st Century is the synthesis of the thought of Che"
Interview with Willian Izarra, Ideological campaigner of Bolivarian Revolution
By Esteban González Arteaga
William Izarra has previously held the post of Vice Minister of Foreign Relations for the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. He has been a co-fighter for revolutionary change together with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, ever since their days in the Armed Forces, and continues together with Chavez today. Today he is a writer and educator for the revolutionary process, the director of the Centre for Ideological Formation (CFI), and an ardent promoter in Venezuela and around the world of the Bolivarian Revolution. He was recently on a tour in Vancouver and Victoria, organized by the Vancouver Bolivarian Society, to promote and educate on the process that is taking place today. Below is an interview William Izarra had with Fire This Time at the end of his Canada tour.
FTT: I would like to deliver a fraternal greeting from Fire This Time, and thank you for your tour here in Canada. The first question I would like to ask is in reference to your history with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. How long have you known President Hugo Chavez and how has your relationship to him developed through the years and up to his taking power?
William Izarra: I met President Hugo Chavez in 1980. We were coming together, to create a political movement within the Armed Forces, and Hugo Chavez was a lieutenant, I had the rank of major, I was his superior, and we were in the process of gathering young officers, and that's when I met him. Lieutenant Hugo Chavez, from that moment everything began to develop that has been our relationship up to now. See, I have been connected to the revolutionary movement since 1977, that is to say I've been in this for 40 years, ever since I was a member of the Armed Forces. The political organization we created in the midst of the Armed Forces were organizations with active officers, I was an active officer. But, I had to retire, because there was a case against me. I was subject to military tribunals for supposed Marxist-Leninist conspiracy within the Armed Forces. A trial which lasted for a year, and at the end, well, nothing could be proved, but I could not continue, and I had to retire from the Armed Forces.
From that moment, from the year 1977 up to the current era I have been tied to the process, trying to develop coherent thinking, contribute to grounding and giving roots to what could be the political and ideological conception of the Bolivarian process. In fact, that is my practice, ideological dissemination, political formation, theoretical investigation. I am trying to write what could be the fundamental base of the revolutionary theory of the Bolivarian process. Up to now I have written nine titles, they are pamphlets, we are calling them pamphlets of the Bolivarian process, and I have written two books connected to the process. I am now preparing another pamphlet, and I am preparing that book I spoke of which will be the fundamental conceptual-theoretical foundation of the Bolivarian Revolution.
FTT: And since President Hugo Chavez came to power what have been your tasks and responsibilities within the revolutionary government?
William Izarra: I was in the first movement, MBR-200 Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200, I was in charge of national political direction. Then when the Fifth Republic Movement was created, that is MVR, I was the first director of organization of the movement and I was assigned the responsibility of creating the movement at a national level. Subsequently I was elected senator to the Congress of the Republic, the last Congress there was, and I presided over one of the permanent constitutional commissions, at the head of the committee on national defence. After that I was part of Comando Maisanto. Comando Maisanto was the command that in the year 2004 went to the referendum for the ratification of President Chavez. Within Comando Maisanto I was assigned the direction of ideology at a national level, and since then we have begun to create the Centres for Ideological Formation, CFI, the CFI's are the organizations that we are creating to establish a network, we are calling it the ideological network of the Bolivarian process in Venezuela. Subsequently I was vice minister of foreign relations, and currently I am building the ideological network at a national level and promoting the revolutionary process abroad.
FTT: Something I would like to touch on is the new way of making revolution and socialism that exists in Venezuela and that is developing in this process. Why is it called Socialism of the 21st Century? What are its political foundations, what has been the inspiration that has led to Socialism of the 21st Century?
William Izarra: Socialism of the 21st Century is a new political model. It does not have a parameter to be compared to. It is totally unprecedented, it is a new process. In fact, it is a revolutionary process that is being carried out through the electoral way, peaceful, and democratic. Its inspirational source, unites and combines what could be called the ideological icons, which are Christ, Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Venezuela and of five countries in South America, who began a process of emancipation of and independence, which he was not able to finish, and now it is being continued through Socialism of the 21st Century. The icons which serve as an inspiration for Socialism of the 21st Century are Christ, Simon Bolivar, Che, and Hugo Chavez. Those four icons mix in a type of revolutionary thought. They create the conceptual, fundamental, base to begin to develop and build Socialism of the 21st Century. It does not have a parameter to be compared to. Because this is not Marxism, this is not communism, this is not utopian socialism, or any other type of socialism, that has already existed in the world. This is new. What is new is this mix of the four elements that serve as inspirational icons and also because it is developing through peaceful, democratic, and electoral roads, within the capitalist model, and the question is how, within the capitalist model, how do we break and establish new relations of production. That is what is being developed today.
FTT: It appears that in this process of unification that is occurring today there are a great many tendencies and groups that declare themselves in favour of Socialism of the 21st Century but give different and varying interpretations of what it is. Some propose that is a type of left social-democracy. Do you agree with this interpretation of Socialism of the 21st Century?
William Izarra: No, Socialism of the 21st Century as I interpret it is Bolivarianism, it is the continuity of the unfinished project of the Liberator Simon Bolivar. But also Socialism of the 21st Century is the synthesis of the thought of Che who sought ethics in the conception of a new being, to promote the new morals of society. From Che himself we take permanent struggle, constant and undying against social injustice. But Socialism of the 21st Century is also the search for the common good, and the common good becomes a category that becomes a goal to be reached. Common good is the satisfaction of the expectations of the collective in its highest level, the moral, the ethical, the material, the spiritual. Common good comes together with love of one's fellow human being, affection with fraternity and good will, not to do wrong by anyone, love of one's fellow human all this is combined in, and is, the common good. And by my judgment, the common good is a political concept which constitutes the root, the nourishing base of Socialism of the 21st Century. That's why it is not social-democracy, neither is it Marxism, it may have components of Marxism, and some aspects of social-democracy. But it is neither Marxism, nor social-democracy, it is Bolivarianism.
FTT: In this process of unification there is the formation of a new party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). What was the purpose of forming this new party, as you see it from inside the revolutionary process?
William Izarra: I can answer from my own conceptual-theoretical frame work. I interpret the United Socialist Party of Venezuela as an instrument at the service of the community. This forces us to change the category of political party. The political parties up to now have been fundamentally characterized by clientelism, that is to say, exchanging the satisfaction of the material needs of an individual for your conscience, that is clientelism. The parties that have existed up to now I consider to be client parties. Because we are in the revolutionary process, and revolution looks to change paradigms, therefore we change paradigms when we conceive the new structure to canalize votes, no longer as a party but as political instrument at the service of the community. So in my opinion the United Socialist Party plays that role. An instrument of the community in order to emancipate the community, contribute to its preparation, to teach what socialist production is, to activate a socialist sector of production. Teach to it what the Integral Defence plans are. That is to say the instrument to serve as a help to the community. That is how I interpret the socialist party.
FTT: Since President Hugo Chavez called for the formation of a new party he asked 24 parties to dissolve and unite in PSUV. There has been resistance from certain sectors. What are the intentions of those parties which say they support the revolution but refuse to join the socialist party?
William Izarra: Again, I answer from my own conceptual framework. I understand, as I was saying, that the PSUV must be at the service of the community. Therefore, those who do not join, who do not understand the role the party must play, I consider they are taking on a reformist conduct, not a revolutionary position. They can continue, as the President has said to, "continue your road, there's no problem," but by my judgment is that they take on positions that do not break the paradigm, but that are repeating the previous model which is the reformist client model.
FTT: Perhaps you could give us an overview of the biggest problems confronting the Bolivarian process.
William Izarra: Revolutionary conscience, ideology. By my judgment in the measure that thinking can be promoted, that consciousness is stimulated, that the individual develops a sense of ownership, that he is able to truly commit to the process. This comes from the spiritual factor of ideology and the consciousness it develops. Until we reach that level we can not resolve the contradictions, the conflicts, the obstacles of the revolutionary process.
FTT: Venezuela today truly has constituted itself as a sovereign nation, a great victory for any oppressed people, oppressed for centuries, and it has done this through the Bolivarian Revolution. In our opinion we think that the second most important issue which must be confronted is the question of the peasantry and agrarian reform. How is this being dealt with in Venezuela?
William Izarra: The War against Landed Estates is what we have called it. The great territorial expanses which are not productive, which have simply been idle, when at the same time there are big sectors with great needs for production and sustenance. Through the Law of Land, these spaces become part of the state and the idle spaces passes to the state. The state, following a plan of equal distribution assigns it to small producers. That is to say, to turn the peasant into a small producer. The small producer must have infrastructure, must have ownership of the land and must have mechanisms for the distribution and commercialization of his product, and so all this is carried out through the plans of the government which follows the line of the President. Therefore these landed estates are used, converted into centres for development. The land is distributed, it is assigned to small producers and furthermore the centre of development is completed with the infrastructure required by the other organizations that contribute to developing new forms of housing and habitat in that zone. That is the concept that is being applied in a general way, in the new conception of the land produced and worked by the producer himself.
FTT: Maybe you could tell us a bit about how ALBA is developing and how an anti-imperialist front is being created in Latin America?
William Izarra: Well, the principal problem to integration is the United States. And the United States will not permit integration contrary to its own projects. So it uses all the means it has, among them the bilateral trade agreements, by means of seduction with credit, by the help it can give through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, so all the instruments to seduce countries that have great necessities. And in that way to break the alliances being promoted by ALBA. ALBA being principally Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, y Nicaragua. There is the possibility of the integration of Ecuador and that is in progress, it is a struggle, and we must consider it a struggle. True integration is the goal, before reaching integration we must solve the problem of the confrontation with the empire which will not permit it. There have been advances, advances in the construction in what could be called a new embryo of Bolivarian countries that identify themselves with anti-imperialist postures. And that embryo is constituted, as I said before, by Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, y Nicaragua. Faced by this embryo the United States is looking for the way to stop anyone else from joining; their proposal to Uruguay, the pressure on Brazil or the tendencies towards Argentina. The way they can liquidate and enter into MERCOSUR to stop MERCOSUR from becoming an instrument against the empire. They do it through diplomacy, through commerce, through intelligence, by all means to break integration. It is a struggle. And the struggle, well, is ideological, is for conscience, it is a battle of historical positions, like our liberators against the empire.
FTT: What do you think, what can people here in Canada contribute to the Bolivarian process and to the revolution in Venezuela?
William Izarra: The first thing, before anything, to give a vision, to say truly what happens in Venezuela, because that counters the distorted and manipulated image put out by the big multinational information corporations. I would say in the first place, to give a true image, secondly, unite with all the voices of the world, all the voices, a group like yours, like the society in Vancouver, those in Europe, those in Asia, unite those voices in favour of a new model of society to be created. The Bolivarian Revolution can become a reference of the model of a society to be created. The Bolivarian Revolution can become a new reference to create a new left in Europe, for example. The Bolivarian Revolution he can become and can stimulate a new constitution in Canada, here also with the referential methodology of the Bolivarian Revolution. The methodology of the revolutionary process can therefore becomes a stimulus, so that organizations like yours, analyze it, study it, and incorporate it into your own culture, and can generate as a consequence of the Bolivarian Revolution, alternatives in the creation of a new way of life. The opinion you give in your newspaper, that which you point out to your friends and family, even the one you can indicate to the government, about the reality of what the Bolivarian Revolution is.
FTT: Thank you very much for your time.
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