Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Venezuela: the Threshold

I was a child when Brezhnev died. I was fascinated by Russia and thus I used to read and listen to anything coming from the Soviet Union. I remember how I would try to read between the lines what the Soviets were saying and used to compare that to what US Americans, Russians in exile and others were saying.

Consider this:

Brezhnev was ill for years but his situation became really grim at the start of 1982. He refused to relinquished power until he died of a heart attack 10 November of the same year.

The Soviets elected Andropov right away. His term in power was very brief. He was elected on 12 November of the same year, suffered total renal failure in February of the next year and in August he had to be kept in a clinic from where he never left. The ones around Andropov had a facsimile of a signature attached to all documents that Andropov was supposed to sign. He died in February of 1983.

Chernenko came to power 11 April 1983. He was already ill, so ill people could hardly hear what he said during Andropov's funeral. Early in 1984 he had to be hospitalized for a month but kept working. Then he was so ill that his people did the same they had done with Andropov: fake his signature.

He died 10 March. Only then did the citizens of the USSR really understand how bad his situation had been.

Chavismo is hardly an ideology, even if it uses tactics and symbols of authoritarian socialism and communism. It's just petro-caudillismo with a stronger military stench as before, riding on the longest oil-price boom - I'd rather say oil price and not oil as oil price and feudal mentality are the keys to a lot of Venezuela's ills.

Chavismo is in a quagmire: what to do without Chávez? While Lenin was alive, no one and definitely not Lenin, were talking about "Leninism" in the USSR. When Stalin ruled, "Stalinism" was never a word used by the government or officially tolerated by the Soviet regime. They talked about Marxism or Marxism-Leninism. When Stalin died, "Stalinism" didn't become a good word in the Soviet Union. That was for the strictest useful idiots abroad. They kept talking about Marxism or Marxism-Leninism or simply communism. Outside the Soviet Union hippy commies did talk about all kinds of big-guy-isms. 

The Soviets had strong cults of personality, but there was at least some real structural and ideological transformation going on in the country.

In Venezuela we only got more petrodollar-driven clientelism and even less accountability than before. We got the revival of a completely irrational cult around Bolívar and the military.

Some clever Chávez oligarchs know that. And they are worried.

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