In his regular column “A Critical Space for the Construction of Socialism”, leftist Venezuelan political scientist Nicmer Evans looks at the state of the Bolivarian project on the 21st anniversary of the Chavez-led civic-military coup attempt against the neoliberal government of Carlos Andres Perez, on 4 February 1992. Despite the coup’s failure, it was the event which thrust Chavez into the public light and played a key role in his election as Venezuelan president in 1998. In his article, Evans argues that the Bolivarian project has reached a stage of maturity in which “the fact we’re talking about socialism must never be left to one side”.
At twenty-one years since 4 February 1992, Chavez, the Venezuelan leader of the 21st century, cannot be indispensable for the continuity of the Bolivarian revolution and even less for the construction of Bolivarian socialism. What I argue will without doubt be rejected by those who claim to defend Chavez no matter what or that they are more Chavista than Chavez himself, for personal interest or because of true and uncontrollable love.
However, there must be continuous reflection if we really want a country with a Communal State in full development, where the communes and communal councils are the spaces of articulation for the satisfaction of basic needs and the promotion and success of socio-productive projects, through social property companies together or in co-existence with non-monopolist private enterprise and with a level of social and nationalist consciousness.
The construction of a socialist project must transcend every one of us, and cannot be circumscribed to the existence or the state of health of one individual, no matter how important and significant they are for our history. When Chavez emerged on 4 February 1992 it wasn’t to become a strong-man or a monarch, it was to break the thread of history which had developed up to that point and to cause a rupture between the punto-fijo-ist past[i] and the Bolivarian and socialist present and future.
4 February wasn’t carried out with the intention of creating a new political caste but rather to generate a revolution where the poor improve their quality of life at the same time as they empower themselves with their legitimate right to directly exercise power. 4F was the moment when the Venezuelan people transformed the economic and social rage of 27 February 1989[ii] into a political consciousness from which the military, together with the civilian sector, were at the point of initiating a change with no going back, which was the expression of the people and not only a man or a party.
But yes, a man has been fundamental and necessary to come as far as we have, and that man has been Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, of course we’ve needed a party and several at the same time, first the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200 (MBR-200), then the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) next to the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), and finally the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the GPP to operationalize the historic process that without the confluence of all these factors would have been very difficult to achieve everything that has been achieved up to now.
However, those who declare “with Chavez everything, without Chavez nothing”, will only be able to keep using that slogan with difficulty, due to the President’s delicate state of health, and because this revolution has now matured beyond a slogan. Nevertheless some hypocrites have tried to use and protect themselves behind the figure of the leader and father of the revolutionary process, to use him as a shield, flag or excuse, including acting in a way which contradicts what Chavez has said or represents up to now. These range from those more-Marxists than the old and beloved Marx, who always denied being a Marxist, between other things to cancel out the stupid dogmatism of his thought (as Ludovico Silva said, paraphrasing), to those so-called Boli-bourgeoisie who reproduce official discourse without feeling it, nor sharing it, and much less living it or trying to practice it, managing with it to enrich themselves or accumulate capital disproportionately at the expense of the state and corruption.
Every revolutionary political process of our era should aim to gather together different wills and opinions, and incorporate masses, but furthermore has the challenge of gathering together or incorporating them in a conscious way. We have four ways of losing this socialist revolution:
1) By assuming that without Chavez there’s no further to go, that the revolution begins and ends with Chavez.
2) By being sectarian and not trying to gather together collective willpower, convince or persuade the adversary or the doubtful that this is the best path, and instead denying criticism and loyal and committed self-criticism.
3) In the search to gather together collective willpower, allowing those who incorporate themselves not consciously but out of mere interest to get into positions of power or self-benefit.
4) Allowing the inertia of the process of political formation of the leading elements of the (PSUV) party, as has happened up to now.
On 29 June 2011 Chavez referred to the use of the colour red by his supporters, arguing that, “These people that dress in red up to their underpants are suspicious. Why do we have to wear a red shirt all the time?” and “the same happens with the word “socialism”. As such he mentioned the initiative of a PSUV mayor to inaugurate a “socialist road”, which he called “stupid”.
Socialism must be a matter of education, discussion, debate and formulation of public politics, not just a colour or a slogan. 4F, we should always remember, was born with revolutionary passion, and today, entering its adult stage, (the revolution) should allow criticism and self-criticism, as well as demanding that revolutionary quality is produced. The revolution can no longer nor should be imposed or improvised, and thus it should never be left to one side that we are talking about socialism, not social democracy or accommodative postures. Chavismo is socialist or it’s not Chavismo.
Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com
[i] In reference to Venezuela’s “Punto-Fijo” period 1958 – 1998.
[ii] In reference to the Caracazo, the mass protests and rioting against a neoliberal adjustment package which were put down by state force, killing up to 3000 civilians