ÖMÜR ŞAHİN KEYİF
WASHINGTON, DC – Dakotah Lilly is among the founders of the Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA). He is 19 years old, living in the most restless – both economically and socially – city of the US and studying Political Science.
It is not easy to follow a path constantly in favor and in support of the working class in a country like the US where left-wing movements often get suffocated by identity-driven politics. Nevertheless, studies reveal that a significantly large group among the youth in the US leans closer to socialism even though the traces of the Cold War era are also still felt in the country.
Last year, for instance, a Harvard University poll showed that young adults between the ages of 18-29 do not support capitalism, with 33 percent in favor of socialism.
So, to hear a bit more about the perspectives of the members of the movement, we wanted to talk to Dakotah Lilly. This is what US policies and Venezuela crisis look like, from his point of view.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about SYNA?
Well, SYNA is a left-wing populist organization that is trying to capture the American working class’ anger at the establishment that has so far been co-opted by the right and “alt-right”. I, along with a few other dedicated activists, co-founded SYNA, because, with the rise of Donald Trump, it was evident that the average American of the working class is fed up with corporate politicians and the political establishment which were embodied by Hillary Clinton. We hope to bring people to the fight for their rights and socialism by pointing out that capitalism is as establishment as it gets. The right-wing would like the working class to believe that people of other religions or skin tones are the cause of their problems, but that’s not the case. The culprits are the big banks and financial institutions, corrupt establishment politicians, CEO’s and hedge fund managers, etc. In short, the oligarchy.
Why do you think the US government sees Venezuela as an enemy?
I think, the US government sees Venezuela as an enemy because they pose a threat to everything the government embodies. That is; war, pillaging of the working class, domination of the rich and powerful, etc. Venezuela is the threat of a good example and has inspired other countries to also resist the US’ vision for a unipolar world. This rising movement started in Venezuela shows that a better world is possible. Venezuela in many ways shows the good that can come when the working class realizes its power and establishes itself and puts people before profit. Another big reason is the vast oil reserves that Venezuela possesses. I think many working class Americans see Venezuela and Hugo Chavez somewhat positively. Through its subsidiary in the US, CITGO, the state oil company of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution provided millions of gallons of heating oil to low income Americans. That’s more than our own government does for us! That’s some of the working class, but I think, the majority are probably saturated in the mainstream corporate media’s fictional depiction of the situation in Venezuela and the revolution.
Can you tell us how Venezuela is being sabotaged by US right now? And how US is supporting the opposition?
The US sabotage of the Bolivarian revolution has been ongoing since Chavez was first elected. The CIA was instrumental in the coup against Chavez. Different leaks by the website “wikileaks” have confirmed US involvement in Venezuela on the side of the opposition. A good writer on this subject is Caleb Maupin. Through a US front organization, the National Endowment for Democracy, it has been proven that the US government provides funding and aid to opposition groups, including the most violent. When the right wing won an election for the first time since Chavez in 2015, Hillary Clinton commented “we’re winning! Our side is winning!” Obviously the US ruling elites have a stake in this fight as it threatens their profits. Large American corporations are also engaging in the economic war against Venezuela through hoarding, refusing to produce, and falsification. There are also sanctions on Venezuela and high ranking officials in the government.
We have seen the tactics being employed in Venezuela far too many times throughout history. We have seen the US topple government after government, assassinate leader after leader, and sabotage revolution after revolution. It’s not hard to start picking away at the lies we are told once we start questioning critically.
Why does US emphasize ‘democracy’ and ‘economic failure’ when it comes to Venezuela?
These are buzzwords. “Democracy” is something few people can be against in principle (though genuine democracy is hated by the same elites who push for regime change in its name). Same with “economic failure”. We have seen these tactics deployed before when a government tries to go its own way independent of the US or when that country happens to have oil beneath its soil. Chile in 1973 under Allende, the funding of the contras in Nicaragua, Iraq in 2003; the list goes on and on.
US administration and media focus on the economic conditions in Venezuela. What about the ‘conditions’ in the US?
The condition of the working class is abhorrent in the US. Malnutrition and homelessness are through the roof; the real unemployment rate (not the inapplicable official rate) goes well into the double digits and living wage jobs are almost nonexistent; credit card and student loan debt are in the trillions; prices of food, rent, medicine, education, clothing, transportation, electricity, water, and heat are ticking up while wages continue to tumble. Illiteracy is a problem that continues to be masked; Social Security payments leave seniors in poverty; food insecurity is only getting worse. Capitalism can never provide a decent living situation for everyone as the basis of capitalism requires profit to be extracted from the labor of others. In capitalism, there is actually a “natural unemployment rate” of 3-5 per cent. Imagine a system that admits it can never establish full gainful employment for its citizens! Under capitalism, profit is put before everything else, but most notably and most upsettingly, profit is put before people and their needs. If you look at what the Bolivarian revolution has done in such a short time, it is amazing to say the least. Free education and the building of countless schools and universities, the elimination of illiteracy, public works programs, the hundreds of thousands of homes built for the poor. Imagine what socialism could achieve in the US.
How would you evaluate US mainstream media’s role on views in US against Venezuela?
Awful! The mainstream media in this country are all owned by 6, or so, large corporations, many of which have a stake in defeating the Bolivarian revolution. The media in this country never reports on the terrorism the opposition in Venezuela perpetrates on the people and government. If they do, it is in a favorable light! They are portrayed as freedom fighters by the media, which is not the case. These are the wealthy and their marionettes terrorizing the people to try and defeat the revolution and get back the power to exploit and reign supreme that was taken away by the revolution.
US governments have seen socialism as a big time enemy. But there are some polls that suggest that US youth is in favor of socialism? Do you think so?
I think, most people are in favor of socialism. I think, it’s the label they hear that turns them off. What working class person would be against allowing themselves to actually have a say in how things are done? What working class person would not want to stop the exploitation they feel every single day of their existence in which capitalism has made wretched? I think, some remnants of the Cold War and McCarthyist periods still remain, and it’s hard to win people off of this thinking; but it must be done, and it must be done by directly educating people understandingly and raising their class consciousness.
What would happen if protesters in US acted as violent as the Venezuelan opposition?
If people here “protested” the way the opposition does in Venezuela it would be full on martial law. People would be indefinitely detained, deprived of most basic human rights, beaten in the streets, shot at by cops, etc. It would be like nothing we have ever seen. In Venezuela, buildings of the government are being set on fire; Black Chavistas set on fire; supporters of the government shot and assassinated; helicopters hijacked; military bases attacked; police being murdered and having Improvised Explosive Devices used against them. What does the government do in response? Calls a Constituent Assembly pursuant to the constitution and invites the opposition to participate. What kind of dictatorship is that? The US is far closer to a dictatorship and Venezuela is far closer to real democracy.