The following article was submitted to The Prison Gates Are Open… by the author Professor Toad:
March 5, 2013
A wave of mourning is sweeping over Latin America and the world over the death of Hugo Chavez. The leader of the Bolivarian Revolution shattered the ossified and corrupt political structure of Venezuela, ushering the country into a new era in which it put the needs of its own people first and stood on its own feet in the world community. Beyond that, Chavez’s revolution inspired movements which brought about deep changes in many countries. Although the left is notoriously sectarian, the overwhelming sensation of leftists the world over is sorrow at the passing of a man who moved the struggle so far forward. However, as Chavez’s health deteriorated in recent months, it became obvious that there were a few among us who would have, at worst, mixed feelings about his death, seeing in it definite elements of opportunity for their own political programs. The question is how soon in this period of deep mourning these snakes will let their true feelings show.
On January 5, 2013, the website havanatimes.org ran an article by a certain Roberto Lopez entitled “Possible Policy Scenarios”. This article apparently originated on a Venezuelan Trotskyist website called laguarura.net, but has found echo as well at the website internationalviewpoint.org, which is apparently the official website of a small Trotskyist sect which pompously calls itself the Fourth International.
The article is a disgusting call for a civil war in the Partido Socialist Unitaria Venezolana, the political party founded and led by Hugo Chavez. Although the article recognizes that the death of Chavez will bring an attack by imperialism, it unbelievably declares that only a sharpening of the internal conflicts of the PSUV can protect the Venezuelan Revolution. The reasoning is fascinating in the way that a bad car crash is fascinating.
First, the article assures us that the vice-president of Venezuela and the speaker of the Venezuelan national assembly are simply incapable as leaders: “We can infer that the present pro-Chavez leadership headed by Maduro and Cabello will deteriorate as time passes. Causes: none of them have the leadership qualities of Chavez and therefore none of them are able to generate the consensus that existed when Chavez was in office.” How this evaluation was arrived at we are not told.
Worse, however, they are apparently “bureaucrats”, a Trotskyist term of art referring to people who hold back a revolution: “The errors of the bureaucracy will not be forgiven by the people, as occurred when Chavez firmly held the nation’s leadership.” In this line, of course, they count Chavez among the wicked bureaucrats undercutting the revolution… A revolution which Chavez began and led, from victory to victory, throughout its life.
Now that we know that the people who brought literacy, medicine, housing, and so forth to Venezuela are in fact enemies of the Venezuelan people, the question is what must be done about them. But, really, how much of a question can this be? “If this strengthening of alternative revolutionary leadership does not occur, it is likely that reformist trends will end up predominating within the Chavista bureaucracy, pushing for a general agreement with the local bourgeoisie and US imperialism as a way to ‘save and sustain’ the Bolivarian process.”
Indeed, in order to protect Venezuela from US imperialism – which the article concedes will soon undertake “a widespread conspiracy” – it is necessary that the left within the PSUV increase the struggle against the current leadership, which we are told will soon seek a league with the United States.
The article makes clear that the reason the new leadership will seek a league with the United States is not any actual change in their political stance – Chavez, the article implies, though, perhaps from cowardice, refrains from frankly saying, was as much a villainous bureaucrat as Maduro or Cabello – but rather their weakness.
So, in effect, we are being told that Chavez’s chosen heirs, those who are concededly of the same political stance as he, will soon deliver the country to the United States. This belief is only possible for those who ignore completely the entire history of Bolivarian Venezuela’s relations with the United States; Those who do not remember the American sponsored coup of 2002; Those who do not remember Chavez’s remarks about the smell of sulfur attending George Bush at the United Nations; Those who do not remember the solidarity that Venezuela has shown with Cuba and Bolivia. And so on.
The empire has never made any bones about who its enemies were in Bolivarian Venezuela. US Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, took the opportunity of Chavez’s death to declare that the leader had “ruled with an iron hand.” Representative Mike Rogers, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, by way of eulogy for Chavez, called him an obstacle to progress. Meanwhile, the wealthy escualidos in Miami have turned out in the city’s streets alongside their Cuban gusano brethren to celebrate the hero’s death. Here, then, we have a touching unity between the section of the left represented by laguarura.net and the imperialists.
The politics of this is, of course, rotten. Whatever grounds there are for criticizing Chavez – or Maduro and Cabello, whose leadership is so far largely untested – the suggestion that the most effective anti-imperialist course will be to break the unity of the Venezuelan revolutionaries is laughable. While the article insists that “the recent and resounding electoral defeats suffered by the opposition in October and December place the post-Chavez political dispute within Chavismo itself,” the reality is that Chavez’s death forces the country to go to a new presidential election within thirty days. The election will pit Maduro, who was until very recently a relative unknown, against a right-wing contender who, in fact rather than fantasy, won more than 44% of the vote even against the immensely popular Chavez. It would be an act of obvious foolishness not to take the threat posed by this looming election seriously.
Beyond politics, however, we can see here a weakness which is, in itself, enough to prevent this brand of Trotskyism from ever posing a serious political threat to capitalism: The article is completely divorced from the real, human feelings of the Venezuelan working class. The authors of the article see Chavez’s death as their opportunity to seize the leadership of the revolutionary movement he built, and if they had to physically step across his corpse to do so, the only danger would be that they would stumble in their haste. The Venezuelan working class sees the death of their long-time leader as a national tragedy.
It seems that laguarura has the political sense to move slowly in firing the opening shots of this war. Although the January 5 article firmly located Chavez within the ranks of the bureaucratic traitors, the article actually announcing his death refers to him as “our companion Chavez.” Perhaps the force of the workers’ reactions will keep these rats mostly in their holes for the foreseeable future. But the question remains, ‘When they will strike?’, rather than if.