A few weeks s ago on March 5th, we commemorated the 10th death anniversary of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Without doubt one of the most progressive or impactful leaders in shaping the destiny of a Latin American nation ,who confronted and gave a mortal blow to American imperialism at it’s strongest point, and paved the path towards liberation. Few Third world leaders in the last few decades have created such an electric effect in crystallising anti-imperialist consciousness and people’s striking power. Chavez checked the infiltration and monopoly of neo-colonial capital as no third world leader in recent times.
As president of Venezuela, Chavez was the target of a coup attempt in 2002 and countless campaigns of vilification by the US and the Venezuelan reactionaries. Still he always managed to come out stronger than ever before. He was part and parcel of the great Latin American tradition of patriotic military officers in the 19th century, like Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora and those military officers of the ruling system who embarked o the road of revolution and anti-imperialism in the 20th century, like Luis Carlos Prestes of Brazil, Jacobo Guzman Arbenz of Guatemala, Juan Alvarado Velasco of Peru and Omar Herrera Torrijos of Panama.
When Chávez addressed the workers and peasants, the spirit of the masses underwent an elevation, reminiscent of lightning and thunder. Hugo Chávez was simply the mascot of the poor and downtrodden He resurrected life in them and they saw themselves in him. For them, Hugo Chávez and the Revolution had one and the same meaning.
Comrade Chavez in his lifetime shimmered the spark unflinchingly for national independence and socialism .He shimmered the banner of Bolivarian Revolution in order to initiate major social, economic, political and cultural reforms to improve the lot of the impoverished and toiling masses of workers and peasants, the women and indigenous people.
Comrade Chavez was an outstanding fighter against imperialism, neoliberal economic policy and the wars of aggression unleashed by the US and NATO, in defended peoples, nations, countries and governments under attack by imperialism and relentlessly advocated socialism as the banner of the 21st century
For decades Venezuela was governed by a ruthless, decadent corrupt and degenerate oligarchy. There was a so-called two party system in which both parties manifested the interests of the oligarchy. When Chávez founded the Bolivarian Movement, he wished to give a striking blow to Venezuelan political life.
Today with wind of imperialism and globalisation sweeping the world as never before to strangulate or tighten the noose on people in every corner of the globe, it is vital that a Hugo Chavez is ressurected.
He originated from a working class family and experienced the pangs of hunger and poverty. From dire straits, he entered the military academy and became a military officer. There he developed contempt for the ruling system of the local oligarchy bowing down to US imperialism. He wished to fight to the last tooth for national independence and social justice. Thus, he founded the clandestine Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement (MBR)-200 among military officers in the early 1980s in order to overthrow the ruling system
On 27 February 1989, the poor people living in the shanty towns surrounding Caracas poured over the streets in protest against a new hike on public transportation prices. It became a nationwide uprising known as the Caracazo. The government of Carlos Andres Perez sent armed troops to mercilessly impart bloodshed. Official figures place the death toll at just under 300, but other estimates indicate up to 3,000 were gunned down. In 1989, up to 3,000 were gunned down in a nationwide uprising known as the Caracazo ..Image: Prensa Presidencial Government of Venezuela
Without the Caracazo possibly Hugo Chávez might have remained an army officer pursuing a normal military career unknown to the public.
The Caracazo and the mortal counter blow simmering discontent, led to an unsuccessful military uprising led by Chávez in 1992. He was imprisoned but subsequently released under pressure from the masses. From the standpoint of the poor and downtrodden, Hugo Chávez was the man who made them rise like a phoenix from the ashes , by his great reserves of personal courage, to acts of heroism, almost unparalleled..
The MBR launched a coup d’etat in 1992 and failed. However it was a blessing in disguise as it made known to the entire nation Hugo Chavez and what he and his movement represented.. After release from prison, he established the social democratic party, the Fifth Republic Movement, and engaged in alliances with communist and other Left forces in order to obtain the presidency of Venezuela in the elections of 1998 and in subsequent elections up to 2012. He established the United Socialist Party of Venezuela as a democratic socialist party in 2007.
. When Chávez addressed the workers and peasants, the spirit of the masses underwent an elevation, reminiscent of lightning and thunder. Hugo Chávez was simply the mascot of the poor and downtrodden He resurrected life in them and they saw themselves in him. For them, Hugo Chávez and the Revolution had one and the same meaning.
Chavez e will always be cherished or renowned for the formulation of a constitution beneficial to the people, the institution of participatory democratic councils, the nationalization of the oil and other key industries, the establishment of worker-managed cooperatives, a program of land reform, greatly increased government funding for health care, education and housing and the significant reduction of poverty
He would always be loved and remembered for the anti-imperialist foreign policy orientation of his government. He maintained and developed strong alliances with the Cuban and other governments assertive of national independence in Latin America. He was a key leader in Latin American and Caribbean cooperation. Chavez was an architect in establishing the Union of South American Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South and the regional television network Telesur.
Chavez procured great strides in domestic and foreign policy because he placed complete faith on the broad masses of the people, especially the workers and peasants.
He led the people to snatch from the imperialists and the local oligarchs control over the oil resources of his country and used the income to benefit the people and support the cooperation and development of countries subjected to imperialist plunder under the Washington Consensus.
Chavez, left no stone unturned in confronting the power of the oligarchy and combating the iron feet of American imperialism. Even his known enemies and critics acknowledged his great colossal courage. And in giving a courageous example he conjured up tremendous forces that have lain dormant in the depths of Venezuelan society for generations.
Hugo Chávez was the very soul of the “wretched of the earth”, and he built a tunnel or avenues to those millions with no voice. They never forgot it. He won another sweeping endorsement when he was triumphantly re-elected as president last October.
The Revolution undertook serious reforms in the interest of the workers and the poor in the key fields of and health. It constructed 250,000 homes and delivered to families who needed them in the last 2 years, while in Spain, for instance, in the same period there have been 250,000 mortgage repossessions.
At a time when every other government was declaring staggering cuts in spending on public health and education, Venezuela had developed a system of free public medicine and on huge scale magnified availability of education at all levels including free of charge university education. In Europe, but particularly in the weakest capitalist countries in the South of Europe, unemployment is reaching unscaled proportions and in Spain and Greece over 60% of the youth are unemployed. The Bolivarian revolution eradicated poverty and unemployment, to a considerable extent. Yet the capitalist media hypocritically talks about “economic chaos” in Venezuela!
However, the most important achievement of the was that it instilled in the masses pride, a sense of their own self-respect or dignity as human beings, it has created an awareness for justice, it has given them a renewed confidence to enhance and establish their own striking power, and placed in them hope for the future. From the standpoint of the ruling class and imperialism, it was a mortal blow.
Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution struck US imperialism in it’s very belly setting a model to the oppressed masses in the rest of Latin America. Ever since the Monroe Doctrine was announced, the rulers of the USA have seen Latin America as their own private backyard. A revolutionary current swept the Latin American continent and Hugo Chávez palyed a major role in shaping the revolutionary movement throughout the continent. This made him public enemy number one for Washington.
Chavez represented a faction of the bourgeoisie itself; but it is a less powerful sector, a group which formerly was not directly involved in the management of the state administration but which, for decades, have been displaced and today feel affected, therefore they were interested in uprooting the government. Chavez has assumed an anti-oligarchic discourse; in his electoral campaigns he has targeted that sector of the bourgeoisie that has dominated that country for decades. In his actions there are nationalist overtones of resistance to foreign domination with these positions consolidating the struggle of the people against imperialist domination.
In the beginning, the Venezuelan oligarchy estimated Chavez was for sale. As soon as they realised that they could not buy Chávez, they chalked out plans to overthrow him. On 11 April 2002, they organized a coup. Backed by the landlords, bankers, capitalists, the media, the Church, generals, police chiefs, corrupt trade union leaders and the CIA.
Chávez was arrested and hijacked. The plotters installed themselves in the palace of Miraflores. But within 48 hours they were overpowered by a spontaneous uprising of the masses. Units of the army loyal to Chávez went over to the masses, and the coup was brought to an abrupt end on April 13. For the first time in the history of Venezuela, the masses overthrew a coup. Morally powers was in their hands, but tragically were unaware of it.
Similarity of Chavez with Mao Tse Tung
Chavez’s ideas had strong overtones of MaoTse Tung’s ideas. There are interesting similarities between Chávez and Mao. Chávez established close relations with China, which he called a “strategic ally.” He used to tickle the Chinese leaders, because he would bring up Mao when he was with them, quoting from the Little Red Book. He treated Mao just as he treated Bolívar, that is, as someone who is alive and among us. Still the Chinese leadership preferred Mao to be treated as something more distant and static – more like an icon – because of course most of them embarked on the capitalist-path..
There was a very important resemblance between Chavez’s conception of the transition to socialism and some key Maoist ideas. When Chávez decided that the commune was the road to socialism, he popularised the reading of Inside a People’s Commune: Report from Chiliying, the book by Chu Li and Tien Chieh-yun.
In fact, in his last major discourse, the so-called Strike at the Helm , Chávez criticized his ministers for not having read the book, which he had published as a pamphlet and from which he read sections on national television. Chávez thought that the experience of Chinese communes – which was a landmark Maoist policy undertaken in the Great Leap Forward – was an important guideline or model for Venezuelan commune and a basic foundation of socialism in Venezuela.
There is an extraordinary similarity between the ideas of István Mészáros, who was the most important Marxist thinker for Chávez, and Mao’s project in the Cultural Revolution.. The coincidence between Mészáros’s thought and the project of the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], shows how the key ideas of socialism are part of a universal legacy because they respond to the same problems and challenges (namely, the problems of overcoming capitalism, which is a world system). Mao and Mészáros faced the same problems of real socialism at roughly the same time. The central problem was the persistence of the logic of capital – what Maoists called bourgeois practices and capitalist tendencies (in spite of the fact that the bourgeoisie had been defeated and removed in China).
Just as Maoists aspired, during the Cultural Revolution, to wipe out these bourgeois practices that prevailed in the bureaucracy, party, and management in China, so Mészáros argued in his book Beyond Capital  that even though a society might cease to be capitalist, it might be dictated by the logic of capital.
Weaknesses of Chavez
There was no real revolution in Venezuela. Chavez did not embark on the programme of an agrarian revolution, completely put a stamp on foreign capital or eradicate bourgeois parliamentary democracy. In important ways he deviated from Marxism-Leninism.
One must be sufficiently objective to gauge , in his politics, Chavez has also approved laws to protect the interests of the banks; his policies have also included the implementing of privatization in certain areas, which does not exactly make him an opponent of neo-liberalism. That is the contradiction in Chavez’s politics.
It is because of what we have just mentioned that many problems that affect the popular sectors have not been addressed, much less resolved. In 2001. Poverty and hunger was rampant in Venezuela, unemployment and corruption is staggering, the crisis is getting more acute and the social effects are not greater only due to the great production and export of oil, which last year benefited from the increase in the price of oil on the international market. If we look at the total picture, the Venezuelan economy is among those that experienced the lowest growth in the year 2001. All this has been used to justify the campaign unleashed by the oligarchy to overthrow Chavez.
The national oil-strike of 2002, and the continuous spate of hunger strikes of medicos, nurses, and member of civil society, made evident that the benefits of this Socialist Revolution were limited only to a selected few.
10 Year since death of Hugo Chavez what is the road for those committed to establish socialism in Venezuela? In the last period of his life Chávez would frequently visit a project site and turn to those present, usually including a few of his cadres, who would then become sheepish, querying: “Where is socialism here?” I think that question was Chávez’s admission that only by investigating those concrete points of rebellion against the existing order could socialism proceed in Venezuela. Remember that Chávez had already tried to decree socialism with the constitutional reform of 2007, which led to his first and only electoral defeat. That defeat enabled him to realize that socialism could be constructed by championing concrete, grassroots experiments from below. Socialism would be built not from above, but only through practice and struggle from the very grassroots.
Today ideology of Socialism, has frugal presence in the government’s main .Socialism in Venezuela has it’s place in those junctures of rebellion against the prevailing capitalist order: the few and always embattled communes, the campesinos who continue to seize and occupy land, the Pobladores movement that propels self-organized housing projects, trying to reconstruct urban life beyond the logic of capital.
Alarmingly, most people who engage with the Venezuelan project from abroad seem uninterested in the question of where socialism exists in the country or whether it can be restored.They feel Venezuelan socialism is a merely local trend that they, as outsiders, are not involved in. On the contrary, socialism, more than any other political project, is a shared and international endeavour. Adapting Chávez’s question and integrating it with Mao’s injunction to remember class struggle we should be asking ourselves: “Where is popular rebellion against the capitalist order in Venezuela?”
The socialist goal in Venezuela will probably be defeated (for both internal and external reasons). Without advancing, without crystallising people’s resistance up from below, socialism will meet it’s doom. It means intensifying privatizations mercantilization, and a general orientation championing local bourgeoisies (both emergent and old) and international capital.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has extensively studied liberation Movements. Thanks information from Chris Gilbert on Venezuelan analysis, International league for peoples struggles and Alan Woods,’In Defence of Marxism.’ and ‘Revolutionary Democracy ‘journal.