[Marxism] To Oppose Chávez, Youth In Caracas Rally Behind Stalin (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 24 06:16:30 MST 2007

(Does this guy sound like anything OTHER than a police provocateur?
And the Wall Street Journal waxes enthusiastic about someone with 
the political background which they provide for him in this story.)

November 24, 2007

To Oppose Chávez, Youth
In Caracas Rally Behind Stalin
That's Ivan Stalin González,
Student-Movement Leader;
A Broad Dissent on Campus
November 24, 2007; Page A1

CARACAS, Venezuela -- As Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez attempts to
push through what he calls 21st-Century Socialism, his biggest
obstacle is an army of students led by a leftist named Stalin.

Ivan Stalin González, who prefers to be called just plain Stalin, is
president of the student body at the Central University of Venezuela,
or UCV, Venezuela's biggest public university. During the past few
weeks, Mr. González and other student leaders here have organized
protest marches by tens of thousands of students opposed to a
constitutional referendum set for Dec. 2. The proposed changes would
dramatically expand Mr. Chávez's power and allow him to seek
perpetual re-election.

"Historically, students have represented the hope and conscience of
Venezuela," says Mr. González, who, unlike his bushy-moustached and
sinister-mannered Soviet namesake, is scruffy-bearded and laid-back.

An armed Chavez supporter confronts two of the Venezuelan president's
opponents at the Central University of Venezuela on Nov. 7.

The student movement has taken the government by surprise,
highlighting an embarrassing irony for the fiery Mr. Chávez:
University students, long a bastion of the left here as in the rest
of Latin America, are overwhelmingly opposed to him. They have also
emerged, along with the Catholic Church, as among the last major
opposition to Mr. Chávez in a country where he already controls the
congress, courts, army and most media outlets.

Elia López, a 22-year-old architecture student at UCV, worries that
by the time she is designing buildings, the only client will be the
state, limiting her creativity. "Imagine if you studied to do
something creative, and suddenly you couldn't do it, or you could do
it only if your ideas were the same as the government," she said.

Variations of that concern are almost universal among Venezuela's
university students, whether they are majoring in sociology,
dentistry or law. In a UCV campus election that became national news
in mid-November, anti-Chávez student slates won 91% of the vote. Mr.
Chávez's student supporters garnered 9%.

Students like Mr. González have traditionally played an outsized role
in Latin America's turbulent politics. In the 1950s, University of
Havana students led a struggle against Cuban dictator Fulgencio
Batista. Fidel Castro, who forced Mr. Batista from power -- and who
is Mr. Chávez's revered mentor -- got his start as a student leader
at the university. In Mexico, a massacre of students and other
protestors in 1968 helped inspire the creation of half a dozen small
guerilla groups in the 1970s.

And in Venezuela, UCV holds an important place in political history.
In 1957, a student strike that began here eventually led to the
downfall of dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Half a century later, many
Venezuelans hope Mr. Chávez will meet his political Stalingrad at
UCV. "Student struggles have always preceded great historical
changes," says Fernando Ochoa, a former defense minister who was
jailed when he participated in the 1957 strike as a high school

The sprawling UCV campus shows the scars of battles between pro- and
anti-Chávez students earlier this month, involving stones, homemade
bombs and gunfire. The law school's student-center room, a base for
Chávez supporters, still smells of charred wood and plastic from a
fire that recently destroyed it. Workmen are still cleaning up the
School of Social Work. There, pro-Chávez students barricaded
themselves for several hours during a standoff with a crowd of
students, until a group of armed civilians on motorcycles intervened
to allow the Chávez supporters to escape.

On a recent day, the student radio station that plays constantly from
speakers around the campus augmented the usual salsa tunes with
student-movement classics, such as "Age of Aquarius" from the musical
"Hair." Protest marches, although sometimes met with violence by
police, have been generally marked by whimsy and wit.

Taking to the streets, students have thrust their palms up in the
air. The idea: They are a peaceful movement, bearing no weapons. This
week, at a student press conference, a tortoise bearing the initials
of Venezuela's Supreme Court crept across a table while students
complained that the court had been slow to take up their challenge to
the proposed constitutional changes. (The court rejected the
students' request to delay the referendum to give citizens more time
to study the proposals.)

Anti-Chávez sentiment on Venezuelan campuses burst into the open in
May, when the government pulled the plug on RCTV, a television
network critical of Mr. Chávez. Tens of thousands of students viewed
the move as a blow to freedom of speech. They were also alarmed by
Mr. Chávez's promises that the "revolution within the university"
would be next -- likely expanding government control over areas like
the curriculum. They took to the streets, creating a protest movement
in campuses across the country. The Dec. 2 referendum has sparked a
round of new protests.

Caught off guard, Mr. Chávez has called the students "terrorists" and
written them off as "pampered, rich mama's boys." UCV, which charges
no tuition, has a range of students, from the scions of businessmen
to the sons of taxi drivers.

Mr. Chávez's description also hardly fits Mr. González. The
27-year-old, sixth-year law student grew up in a poor household that
dreamed of a Communist Venezuela. His father, a print-machine
operator, was a high-ranking member of the Bandera Roja, or Red Flag,
a hard-line Marxist-Leninist party that maintained a guerrilla force
until as recently as the mid-1990s. Its members revered Josef Stalin
as well as Albania's xenophobic Enver Hoxha. As a boy, Mr. González
remembers packing off to marches with his sisters, Dolores Engels and
Ilyich, named in honor of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

As a young man, Mr. González burnished his leftist credentials,
joining Marxist youth groups and following his father into the
Bandera Roja. He traveled to Socialist youth conferences in Latin

Mr. González was still in his teens when Mr. Chávez was voted into
office in late 1998. Even then, he says, he was skeptical about Mr.
Chávez's socialist rhetoric, as are many Venezuelan leftists. Mr.
Chávez, a lieutenant colonel who had staged an unsuccessful coup
attempt in 1992, would be more authoritarian than egalitarian, Mr.
González reasoned.

He says his suspicions were confirmed when Mr. Chávez started forming
the "Bolivarian Circles" of civilian supporters, some of which turned
into armed gangs used to break up opposition gatherings. "Military
men belong in the barracks," he said.

Still seeking to make a life out of left-wing politics, Mr. González
enrolled in 2001 at UCV. Rising in the ranks of the student body can
be a fast track into political life, and as head of the 40,000-member
student federation, his studies have taken a back seat to politics.
He plans to graduate next year.

Even before the recent marches, Mr. González took positions on
Venezuela that set him apart from other leftists. In 2003, organizers
of a conference for young socialists in Guadalajara, Mexico, jumped
him to the top of the speakers' list.

"I think they saw my name, Ivan Stalin, from Venezuela, and put me
first," he says.

They regretted the move, he says. Speaking about a coup attempt
against Mr. Chávez the year before, Mr. González pointed out that Mr.
Chávez had been reinstated by generals in the military -- not by a
popular protest of supporters as the audience seemed to think.

"After I spoke, the place went nuts. All the Cubans were lining up to
denounce me," Mr. González says. He says he wasn't invited to the
group's meeting this year in Quito, Ecuador.

For all his disappointment with Mr. Chávez's brand of leftism, Mr.
González still holds a candle for his revolutionary heroes. He has a
signed copy of a seven-hour speech Fidel Castro delivered at the
university several years ago. "I never got bored," he says.

He also hasn't totally broken with his namesake, who was responsible
for the deaths of millions. "Of course, there's the murder and
repression," he says. But the Soviet leader defeated Hitler, he says,
and propagated ideas of fairness and sharing that inspired the left
in subsequent decades. "He was important for publicizing some
important ideas."

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba
"Un paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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