Dakotah Lilly is a founding member of the Students & Youth for a New America, which focuses on democratic solutions to challenges that young people in the United States face in the age of a deindustrialized and deregulated abusive U.S. economy. SYNA addresses the costs of higher education and their exponential increases while noticing that opportunities opened up by a college degree have significantly decreased. It intersects social, political, economic and foreign policy agenda items to secure a more peaceful and patriotic nation that young people can embrace.
In this interview, Lilly discusses his participation and role in bolstering Venezuelan solidarity and the efforts to beat back unregulated capitalism, acquire more rights for trade unionists and working class people as well as the need for U.S. residents to utilize media skepticism when it comes to U.S. relations with Venezuela.
Daniel Falcone: Can you discuss your role with SYNA and how the work for this organization relates to specific challenges that Venezuela faces on the ground?
Dakotah Lilly: Well I think SYNA strives to use a lot of the same strategies and methods that the Bolivarian Revolution utilized not only in Venezuela but also Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, etc. The "left" in this country long ago stopped trying to court the working class and raise their consciousness much like the political establishment in Venezuela did before Hugo Chavez arrived on the scene. Working class people in the U.S. should have no problems with Venezuela or their people, if anything, we should embrace their model of socialist populism to emancipate our own working classes.
Venezuela is being sabotaged by conglomerates, financial institutions, and foreign governments such as Colombia and the main perpetrator, the United States. Working class people here need to realize that the working class there has made huge strides over the last decade or so and the government that we live under is trying to attack them for the threat of a good example they pose to the rest of the world, including the U.S. These are our compatriots, and we should follow in their footsteps, not undermine their progress.
Daniel Falcone: From the U.S. perspective, Venezuela is a helpless country that suffers economic downturn as a result of following a socialist set of governmental and economic principles. How does this present a distortion and what is the purpose of such a distortion?
Dakotah Lilly: Again this ignores the campaign of economic terrorism and sabotage Venezuela faces from internal oligarchic forces and international capitalists. The US-backed opposition has set food destined for shelves for the poor on fire, 50 tons of food these terrorists destroyed to undermine the revolution! Large companies have their warehouses searched and are found to be hoarding tons of food, diapers, cooking oil, and other necessities. Currency speculation is rampant, oil price manipulation has revved up, and violence on the side of the opposition has soared to devastating levels. It’s much easier for the capitalist media to say all of this is because of socialism when in reality it is because of capitalism and its marionettes! They try to distort it because the Bolivarian Revolution and socialism show that a better world for the people is possible, not just a world for the rich squalid class.
Daniel Falcone: The liberal New York Times is considered a leftist publication by conservative standards in the U.S. but still winds up having a corporate perspective of the developing world. Venezuela is not an actor but a place simply to be acted upon. Aside from this problematic nature of coverage can you comment on an actual leftist publication like Jacobin and its mixed coverage on Venezuela?
Dakotah Lilly: When times get tough, some people retreat. These so called "leftist" publications have a hard time contextualizing the problems Venezuela is facing. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and some people find it easier to double down and parrot the same corporate state department lies they previously fought against. Many publications had nothing but good things to say about Venezuela and other left populist movements, but as soon as the ruling class uses its usual tactics, they fall in line. It’s unfortunate more than anything.
Daniel Falcone: Mercy Benzaquen of the New York Times came out with a piece that highlighted Venezuelan "economic failures." It comments on the price of groceries skyrocketing, overspending in an era of high oil prices, the seizing of private property to halt food production and controlling the currency. This, and more were all done on one-half of a page featuring very oversimplified graphs and charts. What exactly is taking place here?
Dakotah Lilly: Again, more oversimplification and distortion of the situation in Venezuela. Nobody says that certain problems do not exist, inflation for example, but the difference lies in our ability to dig deeper and think critically about the issues facing Venezuela. When I took macroeconomics I always made a fuss about the prevalence of graphs being used to explain economic activities and problems. Graphs never show the full picture, and again, lack context. Did this Times piece say anything about the opposition burning tons of food? Of companies being restarted by the workers and producing again when the corporations refused to produce? Of the CLAP program which provides basic groceries to working class Venezuelans? It’s more propaganda. Articles that think and question critically tend to be longer, but are much more worth the read than repetition of capitalist and imperialist lies.
Daniel Falcone: Professor Noam Chomsky supported Hugo Chavez and his significant achievements and policy objectives in defying western orthodoxy but remarked later on after Chavez served the latter part of his term that he acquired a concentration of executive powers and started delving out political decisions counterintuitive to the agenda that allowed him to acquire office initially. Chomsky is an extremely sensible scholar and activist so I wanted to ask, how can we separate U.S. hypocrisy from government challenges that (President Nicolas) Maduro may now face as he attempts to further integrate the Venezuelan economy?
Dakotah Lilly: I think this relates to the Jacobin question. Many western leftists loved Chavez (as they should) but stopped supporting him when he actually posed a threat to the empire and the oligarchy; they also have this problem with Maduro. They don't like it when movements don't follow their pre-written rule books to a T. Fidel Castro said "Revolution is not a bed of roses" and he was right! Many western leftists don't understand this and think challenging capitalism and imperialism can only be done with hugs and flowers when obviously this is not the case.
The opposition in Venezuela is setting Black Chavistas on fire, and people in the west have a problem when the revolution must respond? Outrageous! Imagine if police officers were being attacked and murdered like here like they are right now in Venezuela. We would have martial law! Certainly not an election for an assembly of peace! Many people end up doing the empire's work for it without (or perhaps while) knowing it. I say to them, defend the revolution, defend the people of Venezuela, defend their sovereignty, their independence, and critically examine who you end up on the same side as when you carelessly criticize Maduro, Chavez, and Venezuela.
Daniel Falcone is an independent journalist, interviewer, researcher, activist and teacher. He has a graduate degree in Modern American History. He writes for several publications that cover current affairs, political science, history and education. He teaches and resides in New York City.