Thursday, 7 March 2013

After Chavez

Hugo Chavez 1954-2013: Con los pobres de la tierra / Quiero yo mi suerte echar / El arroyo de la sierra / Me complace mas que el mar.  (With the poor people of this earth I want to share my fate. The stream of the mountain pleases me more than the sea.) - Jose Marti.
 
THE REVOLUTION Will Not Be Televised is a remarkable documentary. It was made by a crew of Irish filmmakers who were, fortuitously, already filming in Venezuela in 2002 when the upper and middle-class opponents of President Hugo Chavez, with covert backing from the US Government, staged an abortive coup d’etat.
 
TRWNBT captures with remarkable immediacy the authenticity and power of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.
 
One of the most interesting aspects of their documentary, for me, was the contrast it revealed between the courage and confidence of Chavez’s most fervent supporters – the Chavistas from the Caracas slums – and the indecision and timidity of his Cabinet colleagues. Had Chavez relied solely upon these university-educated, mostly social-democratic professional politicians to defeat his opponents, the coup would almost certainly have succeeded.
 
Chavez’s story, and the course of the Venezuelan Revolution itself, bears vivid testimony to the crucial political relationship between a radical policy programme and popular mobilisation. Above all else, Chavismo proves that you cannot have one without the other.
 
The other thing a radical/revolutionary government cannot do without is the active support of a significant fraction of the armed forces.
 
Watching TRWNBT closely reveals that, although the mass mobilisation of the Chavistas and their non-violent siege of the Presidential Palace were crucial to the moral invalidation of the coup, it was the presence of the Presidential Guard (and their lethal weaponry) on the Palace grounds that forced the plotters to capitulate.
 
The Guard itself was only willing to act against the new regime because the military officers who had captured Chavez had not felt secure enough to assassinate him as soon as the coup got underway. Clearly the Officer Corps harboured serious doubts about the loyalty of the rank-and-file. If the coup was ultimately defeated, no one wanted to be fingered as the man who gave the order to shoot Chavez!
 
The loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces, both to Commandante Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, makes it the single most important political force in contemporary Venezuelan society. With Chavez gone, its future disposition towards his nominated successor, Nicolas Maduro, will be crucial.
 
There was a time when Chavez’s point-man in the military, Diosdado Cabello, was looked upon as the Commandante’s ultimate successor, but Maduro, a former bus driver and union organiser, has proved to be the more adept (and certainly the more popular) politician. Cabello (now president of the National Assembly) has pledged his loyalty to Maduro – but there is much that could test it in the months ahead.
 
The fatal weakness of the right-wing Venezuelan elites was their historical failure to completely transform the country’s armed forces into unthinking enforcers of their will (as their counterparts had done so successfully in Brazil, Argentina and Chile). They will now be calculating how long Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution can survive without its military strongman.
 
In testing the military’s loyalty to Maduro, the Right will be able to rely on most of the privately-owned Venezuelan news media. TRWNBT brilliantly investigates and exposes the role of the private media in laying the groundwork for, and actively assisting, the 2002 coup.
 
Recall the New Zealand news media’s dramatic falling-out-of-love with the Clark-led Labour Government of 2005-2008, then multiply it by ten, and you will have some idea of the level of bias directed against the Chavez government. Better still, imagine the mainstream private news media serving up the hate-filled commentary threads of Kiwiblog as “news” and “current affairs”. Now you’re close.
 
The very fact that Chavez was able to flourish in this overheated political environment, winning election after election, is, in my opinion, his greatest political legacy. In spite of everything his opponents threw at him he never lost his natural ebullience, his political passion, or his earthy sense of humour.
 
Watching him sniff the air above the podium in the UN General Assembly, the day after George W Bush’s speech, and tell the world he could still smell the sulphur. Priceless!
 
Could we ever produce a Chavez-type radical populist here in New Zealand?
 
It certainly wouldn’t be easy.
 
Imagine Hone Harawira blended into Willie Apiata, with the ideological fervour of Jane Kelsey and Annette Sykes. Now make him a colonel, rather than a corporal, with a regiment of fiercely loyal soldiers, all imbued with notions of revolutionary social, economic and political change and just waiting for the word “to overturn the cities and the rivers/and split the house like a rotten totara log”. Send him into South and West Auckland on a mission to build a movement capable of smashing the neoliberal order in New Zealand. See him spread his revolutionary Aotearoan Socialist “circles” across the entire country. Watch him win the next election, and the next one, and the next one.
 
That was Hugo Chavez.
 
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.

20 comments:

danial young said...

Hugo,a army man with a social conscience understood the power of educated minds as appossed to the ignorance of the prolatrariat.Yet the prolatariat was his ideal and he done his best to acknolodge it to the umbridge of the profit educated.

Viva Hugo.

The Flying Tortoise said...

I love it! I want to see it happen!
Where's the person to do it?
I hope he's out there...

Anonymous said...

You speak as if coups and politicized armed forces are a good idea!
This sort of romanticized nonsense may quicken the blood of old lefties, but in reality it is a Very Bad Thing. You only have to look to Fiji to see why.
Would you really have that sort of behaviour visited on NZ?
Do you really understand what it would mean?
And , as in Venezuela and Fiji, it relies on a charismatic strong man. When he is gone (as your article admits) chaos!

Representative democracy NZ style (that is, English style), may be boring and unromantic, but it is much safer, relatively fair, and (a much underrated attribute) provides a clear and orderly method of changing governments.
It is, as someone once said "the worst possible system, apart from all the others"

An English style non-politicised armed forces is a truly glorious thing. Or would you have elections decided by he who controls the guns?

If you don't like the governments elected, perhaps you should ask yourself why , in a system with parties from ACT to the Greens do stand, the sort of government you like HASN'T been elected.

Look forward to your answers!

PS
Many of your criticisms of governments and political parties are perceptive and penetrating. But your proposed solutions...

Chris Trotter said...

And where, Anonymous@9:40AM, do you think our English freedoms came from?

Had it not been for General Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army, England (and its colonial offspring) would still be in the clutches of royal absolutism.

And, who, pray tell, have successive conservative governments in New Zealand (from Massey to Holland to Muldoon) called upon to preserve their interests when the people became restive?

The Army.

A good thing, presumably, when the Army is operating in the interests of the Right. But a very bad thing were it ever to be of service to the Left.

Mao Zedong was right: political power does grow out of the barrel of a gun.

The trick is to be the one holding it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris

Anonymous@9:40AM here.

You are going back centuries, to around the time the English political system was established.
As I'm sure you know, it was in this period that the supremacy of parliament was established.

So I don't think its fair to compare it to modern times, after this system was established.
(Incidentally Cromwell was an extremely unpleasant fellow)

It was this system that allowed Ramsay MacDonald and Micheal Joseph Savage to be elected, and implement high taxes and welfare state socialism, with not even a suggestion of opposition from armed forces.

When did Muldoon use the army to preserve his interests?
When did the army refuse to obey left wing governments?

Mao was right that power can be taken with the barrel of a gun. But can it be kept?
(Incidentally Mao was an even more unpleasant fellow)

And why haven't NZers voted in a govt based around a firmly left wing party recently, like say New Labour (some of whom's policies I agreed with - incidentally) - they've had plenty of opportunity to do so.

Jigsaw said...

A champion of the poor-and dies with a net worth of at least $2 billion .....yeh right. Romantic nonsense Chris! The man was an evil populist who made policy on the hoof-often the first his cabinet knew about new policy was that he announced it on TV.
Shows that people will believe almost anything if it's shouted at them. The problems with the economy will soon become obvious. The comparision with Hone Harawira is not so odious as it the idea that a NZ public would support that garbage.

Chris Trotter said...

Citation required, Jigsaw.

Let's see the evidence for this $2 billion claim of yours.

If you can't supply it - you will no longer be welcome on Bowalley Road.

Anonymous said...

"You are going back centuries,"

Well to 1913 when the Army was used to intimidate strikers anyway :-).

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris, you are even more crazy than I thought you were. God forbid you and your ilk ever have any real influence over NZ society.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Jigsaw, and all those others hoping to smear Hugo Chavez's memory by accusing him of stealing $2 billion of Venezuela's oil revenues.

The source of this accusation appears to be a person called Jerry Brewer, who claims to speak on behalf of something called Criminal Justice International Associates (CJIA).

CJIA and Brewer would appear to be one and the same thing - a poorly designed Miami-based website entirely lacking in credibility.

This has not prevented this Internet-driven lie from travelling several times around the world before the Truth has got its boots on.

No further discussion of Brewer's totally unsubstantiated allegations - amplified only by those with an ideological interest in diminishing Chavez's legacy - will be permitted on Bowalley Road.

danial young said...

Ah Cromwell.Could be said that he was the man responsible for todays capitalism old and new.
Ask anyone who has been to Fiji for a holiday or has lived their for a period of time, they find nothing abnormal about its political set up.Only right wing governments and their media lackies find it abnormal.

Jigsaw said...

What a surprise! No further discussion is to be had. You wonder why the left is so distrusted! Shame on you.

Roger Strong

Chris Trotter said...

Not to be wondered at, really, Roger.

In the age of the Internet it is often enough to simply hurl an accusation - endless repetition can then be relied upon to transform it into a "fact".

This is exactly what Brewer has succeeded in doing. Without presenting the slightest evidence, he has persuaded thousands of people - including a number of irresponsible and unprofessional journalists - that Chavez had amassed a personal fortune of $2 billion.

The only way to put out this kind of fire is to smother it - hence the Bowalley Road ban.

Nothing to do with the Left - everything to do with the Truth.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Chris you are acting like the old fragmented left of the 60s and 70s, who punished anyone who didn't toe the party line, and spent most of their time arguing instead of doing. And like the politicians you mix with, you showing a distinct smugness. We know this stuff is unsubstantiated and in fact I provided you with the link that showed it was pretty much unsubstantiated, in spite of the lamestream media publishing it. Yet this was not allowed on your blog. It SHOULD be out in the open. You can ban and do ban people, but before you do this to me I'm withdrawing from this discussion and this blog, and I'll have no hesitation in describing what you did on other blogs. This is simply unconscionable.

Chris Trotter said...

What on earth are you talking about, Anonymous@2;44PM?

I'm not banning discussion of Brewer's falsehood or the way it has been used by the Right - merely denying those who wish to spread it as fact the platform of Bowalley Road.

I have indicated to Bowalley Road's readers where the lie came from - see above - and any one of them is free to verify this information simply by using Google - as I did.

So, you appear to be upset over nothing - apart from the fact that I am refusing to let right-wingers use my site to smear the memory of Hugo Chavez.

If you think that is a big and "unconscionable" story - then, by all means, tell the world.

I just don't think the world is very interested.

Sparkie said...

Hugo made mistakes as all are prone to doing. By and large Venezuela is a much better place now than it was. There is still many more things need to be done there and it will depend on what happens over the next weeks and months.

There are many neocons with their heads in the sand. Of course the US wants to control the oil there and that is why there is so much fertiliser of the male bovine kind coming out of Washington.

Because of the oil revenue, Hugo was able to improve the lot of the poor there without having to increase taxation on the rest. Good for him.

I recall when Fido Castro took over Cuba from Batista (a US puppet) and he asked the US to help set up a democracy and the US coldly told him to return the country to Batista. Fido gave them the middle finger and went to Russia for help in re-building the country.
Under Batista all Cubans were serfs with no right to ever own property and forced to work for the two US fruit companies, United Fruit and Doles. Hugo did the same with their oil.

Anonymous said...

Chris
You haven't answered me re Muldoon, Savage or MacDonald.

thesorrow&thepity said...

If Chavez was so great Chris then how become their economy has been run into the ground & that violent crime is out of control?
If he's done so many great things with the countries oil wealth how become he needed medical treatment in another country? (he's a hero of the poor so there'll be world class medical facilities with all those petro dollars right?)

By devaluing the Bolivar to the extent they've done Chavez's only legacy is that he made everyone poor!

( the bit in the BBC link below about how they give China oil to service their debts only highlights what a basket case economy they've become)

High crime & unemployment, stagnant industries & spiraling inflation along with peoples hard earned savings being turned into monopoly money.

I'll give you an A for idealistic sentiment Chris, but sadly the economic reality of Venezuela just shows how you lefties have your heads in the clouds

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20795781

Sparkie said...

@Thesorrow and The Pity:
I have just returned from Caracas and I was pleasantly surprised at the difference there from 6 years ago. Yes, they have violent crime but no more than any other city in the Americas, especially the big cities in the US.
New hospitals and Schools have been built for the poor. New cheap housing for the poor too! The price of petrol is US0.10c a lt. Inflation is a problem and needs to be controlled.
As I said before, Hugo made mistakes but who hasn't?
It now depends on who gets to follow him. A Rightie would sell the country out to the US again and a Leftie would probably carry on with the reforms. Time will tell which is best.

thesorrow&thepity said...

@ sparkie
"they have violent crime but no more than any other city in the Americas, especially the big cities in the US"
it's a bit hard to read stats through rose coloured glasses
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/10/2012101817912697153.html

Chicago's murder rate is between 15-19 per 100,000. Whilst Venezuelas rnd 67 per 100,000 (twice that of Colombia)
take the countryside out of the equation & that puts Caracas' numbers WAY up there!
The murder rate is now 3 times higher than when Chavez first took office.
As for the cheap petrol that's a US import which Caracas then has to subsidise, the Amuay plant disaster not only shows how run down their oil industry has become, but the fact it still isn't at back to full capacity shows that no money is going into investment in industries (not even the one they depend on)

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5ef9e0fa-44f8-11e2-858f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2NBHFCj1Q

Great cheap housings being put up, but with no jobs all that countries been turned into is 29million unemployed people picking up a petro benefit cheque (which won't last forever).
You mention rightee's selling the country out to uncle sam, I fail to see how that's worse than them giving 200,000 b/d to the Chinese for free, as they depend more & more on Chinese money (& I'm guessing chinese expertise to do all the refining for them) as their debts grow they'll have to keep giving away a larger share of their natural wealth to China
As for the hospitals, like I said if the services were so top notch his cancer treatment would have happened at home, I'd like to see how many of the doctors are Cuban (they'll go when the oil stops flowing) , as for imported medical equipment, well understocked buildings may be called hospitals but they're really just another place where hope dies in Venezuela, viva la revolucion indeed!