Skip to main content

Hugo Chavez, Rest in Peace

I have this vivid image in my mind of Hugo Chavez pushing through various handlers of assorted powerful people in order to get on stage at the UN General Assembly and recommend Noam Chomsky's latest book. I picture a boyish gaze as he famously hands Barack Obama a copy of "The Open Veins of Latin America." Chavez was drunk on ideas. I remember the feeling of radicalization. The difference being, of course, when I began to give heed to such ideas my main concerns were rent and beer money. Chavez was the leader of one of the most oil-rich nations in the world.

I met Alan Woods, who was an informal adviser of sorts to Chavez, a few years ago in Italy. I was there for a organizational congress (we were part of the same political tendency), and had a chance to hear him talk a few times about Chavez. He would mention all the achievements of course, but he'd always temper them with an aside like, "well, Chavez is no Marxist..." I took that to mean he's still learning. Not in the sense that, yes, we're all still learning and that's a good thing, but in the sense that he still believes you can somehow reconcile the thick contradictions ripe within private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. For all this talk about Chavez the strongman, which in many respects is true, he appeared to have a somewhat bizarre faith in good old enlightenment values. He seemed unaware that these once revolutionary ideas can be shaped and perverted into freedom of speech being interpreted as freedom to buy political office. Freedom, liberty- words that have long been slogans for commodities- need a rebranding. If we simply apply them to the structures of the state as is, they are often tools of manipulation.

I'm not suggesting Chavez was naive. (Certainly anyone who has been on both ends of a coup has learned to watch his back.) I'm also not suggesting he was ineffective. (Chavez was able to reduce poverty to such an extent he is assured to be remembered as one of the best leaders of our time among a large swath of the world's population.) I do, however, think he was indecisive. At least when it came to the big question. He sat on the revolution too long. There is likely a million reasons why, but you can't wait capital out. You have to, as they say, strike while the iron's hot. From the oil fields to the grocery shelves, they have fought Chavez. They will trade short-term profit for long-term power every time.They don't feel the national, or Bolivarian, pride that teemed within Chavez. They would have a million slum-dwelling children die ten times over before they would allow any fundamental change in the system that offers them so much privilege. Despite the boisterous rhetoric, deep-down Chavez seemed to believe he could appeal to them. Instead of replacing the corrupt state, he built parallel structures. This allowed much of the "old crap" to remain. 

That said, running a revolution is fucking hard. The negative obituaries by the usual suspects are proof enough of his legacy. He scared the right people. He gave power to people who never had it before. The hard part is now. We have to finish with what Chavez was unable to.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hanging from a cliff

The day after Obama won his second term the markets took a bit of a tumble. The Dow dipped below 13,000 for the first time in a few months. US Congressional gridlock and the ongoing crisis in Europe are mostly to blame. What is more interesting, even if it's unsurprising, is the rush to bonds- US government bonds to be exact. Indeed, the yield on ten-year treasury notes dipped as low as it has since May. Even with our ratings downgrade (which no one now cares about in the slightest) and huge debt, it is cheaper than ever for us to borrow money. We are still the safest piggy bank out there. 

With the "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts looming, the spirit of compromise is being sprayed into the air like a bottle of Glade mountain berry. Democrats are fond of saying we need a "balanced" approach to reducing the deficit. Nominally this means some tax increases along with spending cuts. Republicans are now, apparently, open to some sort…

Austerity Ecology and The Collapse-Porn Addicts

I just finished Leigh Phillip’s left defense of humanity, “Austerity Ecology And The Collapse-Porn Addicts.” I think it’s important to frame it that way, as one of the main point he makes (and I fully agree) is that the earth doesn’t need us to survive. What we should focus on is our species. And not just surviving, but prospering, even conquering (I know people don’t like that word, but we ought not be scared of power). Phillips goes through every argument that I grew up with, from green austerity to that overpopulation nonsense, and convincingly does away with them. (I read Derrick Jensen was I was younger and had completely spaced out how truly terrible his arguments are. Embarrassingly bad. When I tried John Bellamy Foster I luckily found him too dense to get through. Just like George Ciccariello-Maher is a caricature of your “edgy” left wing professor, Foster is a caricature of what a Marxist is, tough to understand but you should know what he’s saying is super important!) 

Phill…

The Earth is not Fragile

I found myself cringing the other day listening to a well intentioned, yet completely ridiculous, city slicking environmentalist tell a room full of us how fragile the earth is. I wanted to scream "it is not!" but decorum got the better of me and I stayed quiet. It isn't fragile, not in any real sense of the word. The earth would just as soon wash us all away in a flood than conjure up a gorgeous sunset.
One of the most punk rock things you can do these days, particularly at dinner parties in liberal enclaves like where I live, is say you're skeptic when it comes to what people view as scientific consensus. Usually people think climate change, and are immediately offended by the idea that someone may disagree with what they've been told is humanity's most desperate and urgent threat. This is not to say I don't believe the earth is getting warmer, I surely do, or that I believe humans haven't had an effect on the environment, we certainly have. It'…