Friday, 9 July 2010

Chávez getting madder: Hairsplitting Marx in Venezuela

Is he a Marxist or is he not?

Chávez declared now that whoever says he promotes Marxism and socialism in Venezuela is a liar and should go to court. Now, although I am a capitalist who would be classified in Europe as rather centre, I have to say I have read a thing or two about socialism and communism if only because I am a history buff and have interests in Eastern Europe. I don't call people Marxist or communist just like that. On one side you have the extreme righties who see communism in the soup. Actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan once said: "How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin". On the other side you have commies themselves saying "that was no communism" and "that was no communism either", as if communism were some kind of Nirvana or ever-moving target.

I consider Chávez is a "Marxist" and he is using communist tactics. He is a "Marxist", he has said so already many times. He is one, but not as many people think. People like Lenin and many of his admirers were mad for power but they also had a bit of idealism, even if it turned to be rather mortal. They also had knowledge of the meaning of terms they were using, not only of the effect of such terms. Chávez, on the other hand, uses Marxism purely for the sake of power, without the idealistic part and without any belief. He is a Marxist and anything else as long as that keeps him in power.

Of course, Chávez is coating it all with the pseudo-ideology of Bolivarianism, a pseudo-ideology that was first promoted by our first caudillo, Simón Bolívar, and used to a larger or lesser extent by every other single military caudillo we have had, ending with coup monger Chávez.

Bolivarianism...a pseudo-ideology

Bolívar supported some very good ideas - like many others before and after him - going from independence to unity among Latin American countries. He had also some clever thoughts about education. He thought Venezuela needed above all better technicians and scientists and not so many military and lawers (sorry to the lawers out there, no sorry to the military, specially if Venezuelan). He defended the rights of Indians and to a certain extent of black slaves, even if his attitude may not have been as nice as some thought.

On the other hand, Bolívar was mad for power. He wanted to become president for life and it was only because he did not get it from Colombia that he had to give up. He was so pretentious as to claim for himself the title of the Liberator. He was very aware of history and he did all he could to promote a personality cult around himself with no parallels in any other part of America. Bolívar was also more than once a coward. He gave up Puerto Cabello for nothing. He delivered Miranda to the Spaniards so as to be able to escape from the Spaniards, an event that is incredibly explained in Venezuela as "he gave Miranda to the Spaniards because he thought Miranda was betraying Venezuelans (to the Spaniards!).

Bolívar was rather conservative when it came to economics. He loved wars and insisted on leading them and as he did not have enough money to pay his military men, he decided to promise them land and more land and that is what they got. Venezuela got its independence in worse conditions than others: most of the best educated died in the many battles from Venezuela to Bolivia, most of the land fell in the hands of the surviving - and not necessarily better qualified - military and the debts for weapon purchases was huge. Some people think Páez was the one who initiated caudillismo in Venezuela, but it was Bolívar himself.

Bolívar was also a centralist and this is something that has stuck very much with Chávez. He knows that he can only control a country where he is the one decided where every single cent goes.

Chavismo: a method

Anyway: is this what Chávez thinks of Bolivarianism? Not really, there is no real coherent Bolivarian ideology. Chávez takes what he likes from Bolívar's mythology and from anything else that suits him. And that is Chavismo, the real thing. Chavismo is not really an ideology but a method, it is a method that uses any useful bit of other ideologies or pseudo-ideologies to help coup monger Chávez and his military friends to remain in power forever.

Chavismo is about personality cult, it is about promoting resentment, about the eternal foreign and national enemies, it is about milking the oil cow until the bitter end. And Chávez will use Soviet and Cuban-style methods any time he can.


  1. Chávez is a pragmatist who'll "be" anything that'll keep him in power. That's a huge difference with Allende, as we talked in my post. He doesn't have an ideology and is far from being a scholar on political philosophy, ethics or even history.
    These are just smokescreens so his apparatchiks can run around filling Aporrea with quotes about Marx he never read or understood.
    If we read Chávez' flimsy body of work, such as "el árbol de las tres raíces", "el juramento del Samán de Güere", we can easily see his intellectual limitations as he tries to wrestle through the Spanish language with used analogies and perfunctory platitudes.
    Chávez is a military, and a pig-headed one at that; he's far from producing a legacy such as De Gaulle's memoirs.
    So for me, going around wondering how far behind conceptually Chávez is from Churchill seems like a distorted question. It's fodder for geeks like us who might enjoy discussing freedom of speech in Cuba or the economic theories behind Giordani's hare-brained disaster; but as far as Chávez goes, he's like Paris Hilton: a bandwagon-fashion celebrity.
    For exemple, I remember him meeting José Bové at the Fête de l'Humanité and, after talking for him during 10 minutes, declaring Venezuela was against the "Tobine tax", the backbone of group Attac. Of course, being at the Fête and supporting Attac is as chic as you can get: that and fake dreadlocks will get you laid for sure.
    He never spoke about that again, ever in his life, or stopped a second to give it serious thought.

  2. You just explained it, man.

    Chávez is simply a military and a very clumsy one at that. What Chávez does have is the Cantinflas effect, only that he uses it exclusively on his quest for power.

    What he does have is good memory. He can wrap up idea after idea about his eternal topics and then backtrack without apparent effort. Never mind what he said is pure gibberish: he can tell stories as they do that in the Llanos around a fire at night. We know it, we laugh at it, Yulinda Pacheco and Jonny Pérez do not.

    I haven't read his two booklets, I never thought I could.

    When he talks abroad to an audience in places where people may have some idea about history
    and political theories, he does not use the same kind of talk, he knows he can be spotted rather easily. What he does is just to use names as if they were magic words. Very sadly, that works (at least for a while)

    Did you listen even part of his "Copenhagen speech"? He just mentioned Kierkegaard and some other names and the public went absolutely bananas.
    I am sure he got the names on the plane or at the hotel the night before.
    This of course shows the level masses of apparently well-educated people work. It is about images, as Kundera said.

    Now, I wonder what people like Heinz Dieterich might have ever thought.


1) Try to be constructive and creative. The main goal of this blog is not to bash but to propose ideas and, when needed, to denounce
2) Do not use offensive language
3) Bear in mind that your comments can be edited or deleted at the blogger's sole discretion
4) If your comment would link back to a site promoting hatred of ethnic groups, nations, religions or the like, don't bother commenting here.
5) Read point 4 again