Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela

Derek Wall reviews Pablo Navarrete's new documentary

August 26, 2009
4 min read

If you think you know everything about Venezuela, well, think again. Pablo Navarrete’s documentary, ‘Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela, is a very thoughtful look at ten years of change since Hugo Chávez’s election in 1998. You won’t find ‘Chávez the hero’ or ‘Chávez the villain’ here – there’s less of Hugo than in most portraits of the country.

The film trades on ambiguity and contradiction. Venezuela has long been the ‘magical country’, with oil wealth shaping social development in unpredictable ways. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote novels such as ‘Love in the Time of Cholera‘, based on astonishing events on the Caribbean coast that Venezuela shares with Colombia. The biggest contradiction of all is that Venezuela, a country know for its love of Big Macs, baseball and all things Americano, has led global opposition to George Bush’s foreign policy, the Washington Consensus and the US-shaped New World Order.

For fifty years Venezuela was run by an increasingly corrupt elite, rotating power between the two main political parties – Acción Democrática (social democrats) and COPEI (Christian democrats). In 1989 during the ‘Caracazo’ hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured, as police fired on protesters, mobilizing against IMF inspired spending cuts. It was Latin America’s Tiananmen Square but unlike Tiananmen, received virtually no attention outside the country at the time.

Chavez, then a young army officer, rebelled against the killings and mounted a coup to protect citizens from the military assault. He famously surrendered but only ‘por ahora’ (for now) on national television and radio. After imprisonment and then a pardon, he won the presidency in 1998. Chavez’s victory ended the old two-party era and, though he initially proclaimed a brand of ‘third way’ politics, he later moved sharply to the left. The traditional elite, strongly aided by the US, mounted a full-scale assault on his government, culminating in a 2002 coup where he was temporarily removed from power.

‘Inside the Revolution’ argues that despite the ambiguities, the world’s media looks at Venezuela from the perspective of the ‘folks on the hill’, the wealthy and well connected elite. The changes in Venezuela threaten them, and they are in constant revolt, while the perspective of the majority of Venezuelans is ignored. Even the so-called liberal press finds it easier to go to the relatively well-heeled parts of the country rather than talk to the people of barrios, peasant farmers or indigenous people. This film talks to the people; farmers, community organisers and – most of all – the hip-hop revolución artist ‘Master’.

Such accounts displace Hugo from his pedestal and put the people at the centre. The Venezuelan people, especially those excluded from influence, revolted against the IMF cuts, swept away the corrupt governing parties, pushed the present government in more radical directions and put Chávez in power, even rescuing him during the coup.

While the film corrects the avalanche of elite commentary on Venezuela, it’s also unsparing in its criticisms of the corruption, crime and concentrations of power that remain in the country. In one bit of electric footage, Master and his rappers play to Chavez, slipping in an unscheduled number to rap out to the president, standing just feet away, the failings of his government. You will have to watch for yourself to see his reaction.

Capitalism is increasingly in crisis: the financial catastrophe and recession, are only part of its failings. People are looking for an alternative, and this film contains an interesting discussion of what 21st century socialism could mean. This is socialism with direct democracy, Marx, the Latin American leader Simón Bolivar, radical Christianity, free software, anarchism and much else in the mix.

Master notes somewhere at the beginning of the film that ‘culture is the train ideologies travel by’. Have a good trip – we are entering new territory.

Public screening of ‘Inside the Revolution’, Sunday 30 August, The Compass, 58 Penton Street, London N1 9PZ. Nearest Tube: Angel.

Presented by Alborada and supported by Red Pepper. James O’Nions (Red Pepper co-editor) will introduce the documentary and chair a Q&A with Roberto Navarrete (executive producer) after the screening.

More information on this and future screenings: http://www.alborada.net/alboradafilms


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility


6