Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who is the opposition anyway?

(part one of a partial answer)

(never thought I'd be here. These pictures are from the same march as the previous post. About 2 minutes after i hit 'publish' I recieved a call from friends saying 'we're in your neighborhood, come on down!

so i did.

this was the same march about 2 hours later. We ended up marching with the police because, well, they were on our side, and we on theirs. strangest fucking feeling in my life.)

(this guy is holding up a sign -- hard to read, bad lighting -- which reads 'Que cierren Miraflores?' or, "what if they closed Miraflores?' -- he brought it out for the police following the student which a Venezolana friend of mine shouted, right in his face, 'we're closing the white house, asshole!'
There really is little differetiation here between the opposition, the oligarchy, and capitalism's puppetmasters in the north. The US for obvious reasons often bears the brunt of people's ire -- though i have been recieved warmly by everyone and have never had to be held accountable for the sins of 'my nation.'

But at the same time, my friend's response definitely highlights the international awareness of the Bolivarian revolutionaries. They KNOW what they are up against and the battles in their future. How couldn't they? They've been fighting them for their entire lives.)

This photo is an entry into an answer to Cris’ deceptively simple question:

Who is the opposition, anyway?

The red specks are either flags, t-shirts, or some other such indication that the bearers of said articles were ‘rojo rojitos’ – Chavistas.
Along the march route, as we were with the police, we were able to experience a rather interesting example of the polarization of Venezuela today.
Many folks were booing the police, chanting
‘Son estudiantes, no son Golpistas!’
(‘They’re students, not Coup mongers’ – I have failed to come up with an adequate translation of ‘golpista.’ On the one hand, it could literally be translated as ‘coup-ist’ – and allusion to the April 2002 coup. And that could be sufficient. But the term has a lot more weight here, in that it also signifies the opposition tout court, the opposition as those who wish to violently derail the process. It is almost like saying ‘you are everything bad and wrong with the universe.’ It can also pure and simply mean that RCTV was one of the chief weapons of the coup, and hence those who support it, support the violent overthrow of the Revolution.)

But there were also a fair amount of people CHEERING the police.
Yeah, you read that correctly.

Rather than answering from the newspapers and books I´ve read, I decided to ask my students and colleagues. I’ve not fact-checked any of it as I think that perception is important, especially in determining political positions.

For the most part, the answers were pretty simple, almost Schmittian. The opposition is the middle class. The opposition is the upper classes. The opposition is whoever opposes the Bolivarian Revolution for whatever reason of personal interest they might have.
One of my colleagues threw some more light on it.
He described two levels of the Opp (and of course, there are more, some who are more violently opposed to the process than others, and etc.)
One is basically the upper upper class. The folks who own everything – many of whom are of fairly recent (1950´s-1970´s) European and North American extraction. These are the folks, who he thinks will oppose Chávez to the death.
There is a second tier (mind you, these two tiers are still within the ideologically upper tiered positions of the Opposition in his accounting. The ‘popular’ opposition didn’t really figure into his story, whatever ostensibly ‘popular’ opposition there might be) which he associates mostly with the middle class. These folks, according to his accounting, are nostalgic for the 70s, when the population was smaller, the urban population smaller still, and ‘it was nearly impossible not to make money here…back in the days when people called it ‘Saudi Venezuela.’’
These are solidly middle class folks, small business owners and the like.

When I suggested that the university students protesting in favor of RCTV might be sincerely believing they are fighting for freedom of speech rather than defending its polar opposite, that perhaps they have unwittingly fell into the hands of opposition politicos, he laughed. Most of these students, he asserted, would be perfectly happy to fall into those kinds of hands. University students tend to be middle class anyway, he thinks, and many of the universities represented in the opposition marches are private, meaning the moneyed population would be even greater.

(when I asked my students this very question – are those students in the streets against Chávez just being duped? – many of them responded by accusing the opposition students of being white.
‘Listen to the way they talk,’ they said.
‘Look at their skin, their clothes. What would you expect?’)

The one thing that unites all factions of the opposition, pretty much everyone conceded, is a fanatical hatred of the poor.

(It should be noted, like most bourgeois ideologies, the positions of the opposition tend to be rather contradictory. I was recently in a car with some opposition folks, playing the stupid tourist, trying to get their opinion on things. As we drove by Petare, a massive barrio in the extreme East of the city, they ran out of nasty things to say about the place, from racial slurs to comments on the smell. The long and short of their concern is that all, ALL, the folks living in Petare just want to be poor, just want easy money, don’t want to work.
Chávez, evil bastard that he is, wants to give THESE people money.
Later that evening, driving home with the same opposition folks, an indigenous woman with her child cinched to her hobbling at a very obviously very poorly set compound leg fracture was holding out a hand to the passing cars in the rain.
They looked at me and asked ‘Why doesn’t she go to the government for money? Why does she hassle normal people like us?’
They hate Chávez for giving the poor money, and they hate the poor for being poor.
The situation determines which they hate more: the existence of the poor, or the attempt to better their situation.)

Color plays into the general determination as well, with the Chavistas being more ‘of color’ than the opposition, although this is a tendency rather than a hard and fast rule.

1 comment:

Charles said...

golpe is something like sweep/hit, so a golpista would be a sweeper of the regime. Except with a really big broom.