Thursday, February 12, 2009

Uncle Hugo & the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela

From: Published by @ndy February 12th, 2009

Three cheers and a loud huzzah! for ten years of Chávismo!

On the other hand — and at the risk of sounding like a cynical whining right-winger posing as an anarchist — maybe celebrations are a little premature? For example, some French @ called Charles Reeve done an interview with some Venezuelan @s Miguel and Isabel; it appears on the blog of the steenky communists ‘The Commune’, and is apparently the first English translation of the March 2008 interview.

It portrays Uncle Hugo and his government in a rather unflattering light.

the revolution delayed: 10 years of hugo chávez’s rule (February 9, 2009):

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s coming to power in Venezuela, and ten years of the “Bolivarian revolution”. This process has included waves of state intervention in the economy and fervent rhetoric against US imperialism. But while some on the left see this Chavista movement as the new “socialism for the 21st century”, groups such as ours have argued that it is actually more like an old-fashioned attempt at modernisation by a technocratic élite; that increased bureaucratic power over capital is not inherently progressive; and that the “revolution” in Venezuela allows for very little working-class control or initiative from below.

Here we present a translation of a March 2008 interview conducted by the French anarchist ‘Charles Reeve’ with two members of the El Libertario group in Caracas, the nation’s capital, which offers some stark insights into the reality of the situation. Looking at various aspects of the Venezuelan economy and living standards in the country, it argues that Chavismo and the mythology of the “Bolivarian revolution” conceal a raft of neo-liberal reforms and attacks on workers’ rights, and that we must break out of the dynamics of Chávez vs. the opposition in order to build an autonomous working-class alternative…

Note that, in 1995, Charles and Sylvie Deneuve published an essay titled ‘Behind the Balaclavas of South-east Mexico’, which argued that the Zaps were less the harbingers of a new, ‘post-modern’ revolution (see : Michael P. Pelaez, ‘The EZLN: 21st Century Radicals’) than “the new party of the Mexican Left”.

In Australia, the most vocal support for Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the Bolivarian Revolution, has come from the neo-Trotskyist DSP. (Its splinter, the RSP, also supports Chávez: Support the Cuban & Venezuelan revolutions! Join the Cuba-Venezuela solidarity club!, implores the latest issue of its zine.) The DSP argues that the Venezuelan experience provides a dramatic example of ‘Socialism of the 21st Century’. To promote this new-fangled Socialism, the DSP has devoted a site to promoting solidarity with the Venezuelan Government, organised study brigades, and frequently invites speakers from the Venezuelan Embassy to address their meetings.

Recently, it has republished a tract from the Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information (January 30, 2009), outlining the achievements of the last ten years under Chávez’s rule.


During 10 years of revolution, the Bolivarian Government has been breaking free from paradigms, beating obstacles, exceeding all expectations, facing empires, revolutionizing consciousness, beating foreign and internal propaganda, and even more, defending, as the engine and fuel of the revolutionary project, the deep conviction that the human being is the center and principle of the society.

The most representative achievements can be evaluated quantitatively through the Missions, infrastructure works and technological advancements, among others, but the qualitative analysis leads us to three big conclusions: with the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution, the quality of life has been boosted for most Venezuelans, social inequalities have been reduced significantly and Venezuela has made important steps in the struggle to reach the real conditions of a developed country…

See also : Venezuela: Democracy, revolution and term limits, Chris Kerr, February 6, 2009 (Green Left Weekly, No.782, February 11, 2009) | El Libertario (English).

Oddly enough, one member of the Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information is Eduardo Rothe. Rothe was interviewed by the French zine Rouge et Vert: Le Journal des Alternatifs (Number 222, April 15, 2005; translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2005), and is a former member of the Internationale Situationniste, contributing some thoughts on ‘The Conquest of Space in the Time of Power’ to the 12th issue of its journal (September 1969).

Just as anarchists are critical of Uncle Hugo, Uncle Hugo is critical of anarchists: “Critical thinking is fundamental to a revolution, but that is very different to going around talking badly about a party that has not been born, collecting signatures to present them who knows where. Anyone who wants to be an anarchist, get out of here, you are not wanted, what is needed here is a creative, but disciplined active membership.” One, rather important difference between the ‘anarchists’ and Uncle Hugo being, of course, that Uncle Hugo is in a rather better position to eliminate the bad-mouthed anarchists than the undisciplined anarchists are of getting rid of Uncle Hugo…

Chávez does have his champions in the academy, of course, one of note being Slovenian “superstar” philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

It is striking that the course on which Hugo Chávez has embarked since 2006 is the exact opposite of the one chosen by the postmodern Left: far from resisting state power, he grabbed it (first by an attempted coup, then democratically), ruthlessly using the Venezuelan state apparatuses to promote his goals. Furthermore, he is militarising the barrios, and organising the training of armed units there. And, the ultimate scare: now that he is feeling the economic effects of capital’s ‘resistance’ to his rule (temporary shortages of some goods in the state-subsidised supermarkets), he has announced plans to consolidate the 24 parties that support him into a single party. Even some of his allies are sceptical about this move: will it come at the expense of the popular movements that have given the Venezuelan revolution its élan? However, this choice, though risky, should be fully endorsed: the task is to make the new party function not as a typical state socialist (or Peronist) party, but as a vehicle for the mobilisation of new forms of politics (like the grass roots slum committees). What should we say to someone like Chávez? ‘No, do not grab state power, just withdraw, leave the state and the current situation in place’? Chávez is often dismissed as a clown – but wouldn’t such a withdrawal just reduce him to a version of Subcomandante Marcos, whom many Mexican leftists now refer to as ‘Subcomediante Marcos’? Today, it is the great capitalists – Bill Gates, corporate polluters, fox hunters – who ‘resist’ the state. ~ ‘Resistance Is Surrender’, London Review of Books, November 15, 2007

The full text of Žižek’s polemic — ostensibly a review of football hooligan, wrecker (and philosopher) Simon Critchley’s Infinitely Demanding : Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (Verso, 2007) — is available here, as is a reply by meddling outsider David Graeber. Resistance is Utile: Critchley responds to Zizek (Harper’s Review, May 2008) is available here.

See also : Venezuelan Anarchists on Chavez, WSF (January 10, 2006) | anarchy is a (Venezuelan) fag! (October 2, 2007) | Viva Chávez? WSJ on the student opposition… (November 26, 2007) | No Todos Somos Chávez: Venezuela says ‘No’ (December 4, 2007) | Uh-oh… troubled times ahead for anarchists in Venezuela // Bombings in Caracas (February 26, 2008) |

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