“We are All Chavez”

“Chavez did not die, he multiplied!” “We are all Chavez!” “The struggle continues!” – chanted the huge red tide, overflowing with love and commitment, which flooded the streets of Caracas. Fittingly for a man who at times sang and danced on his weekly TV shows, the eight kilometres long funeral procession was full of music. A favourite tune was people’s singer Alí Primera’s “Those who die for life cannot be called dead/ From this moment on, mourning is prohibited.”

Right, where is the time to mourn? The people of Venezuela know they have a protracted war ahead to fight and win, if they are to prove worthy of their dear departed “commandante”.

The first of a series of battles is scheduled to be fought on 14 April, when Chavez’s chosen successor, Vice President (now acting President) Nicolas Maduro confronts the opposition in presidential election. That by itself may not prove very difficult, but the real challenge will be to defeat the US design of regime change and continue the journey initiated and so far led by the departed President.

The very next day after the passing away of Hugo Chavez, the Wall Street-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sponsored by the likes of the current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski and his party Justice First issued a “Post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers.” It was declared that the US must move quickly to “defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. …. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery” must be sternly met with, it added, and warned that “Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas.”

It is easy to see why the US and its lackeys in Venezuela, not content with the physical absence of Chavez, are so desperate to completely erase his entire legacy from the soil of Latin America.

Not only did Chavez nationalise oil, steel, aluminium and other industries, forcing out foreign MNCs; under his guidance Venezuela in league with Cuba developed a mighty bulwark against Western hegemony -- the Bolivarian Alliance for our Americas or ALBA, which is building an alternative to the US- dominated trade with the aim of regional economic integration, and several other bodies including the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States or CELAC, which comprises 33 sovereign countries in the Americas excluding USA and Canada. He maintained close cooperation with Tehran, Washington’s number one enemy in the Middle East. He emerged as one of the world’s most vocal critics of U.S. foreign policy, strongly condemning US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and opposing Israel’s attack on Gaza. Washington will never forget his pungent affront to the then-President George W. Bush, to whom he obliquely referred as the devil in a speech before the UN General Assembly in 2006: “Yesterday, the devil came here, right here, right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.”

The militant opposition to imperialism went hand in hand – and this was what panicked the Empire even more – with a massive exercise in building a radical alternative. Chavez was probably the most important leader in the past quarter century to have reclaimed and re-popularise the vision of socialism, reinterpreting it as a new collective life in which equality, freedom, and real and deep democracy reign, and in which the common people plays the role of protagonist. His idea was to take existing reality as the point of departure and consciously create conditions for changing it. In the political platform on which he sought re-election last year, Chavez said, “We shouldn’t let ourselves be deceived: the social and economic system that still prevails in Venezuela is a capitalist and rentier system” while “socialism has just begun to impose on us its own internal dynamics.” And he added, “In order to move towards socialism, we need a people’s power capable of disarticulating the oppression, exploitation and domination plots that still exist in the Venezuelan society.”

This “move[ment] towards socialism” will no doubt be harder now, what with renewed attempts of economic sabotage and political destabilisation on the part of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and corporate media. Also there is no denying that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) developed under such circumstances and in such a way that made it too precariously dependent on the vision, will-power and popuularity of its founder. But the masses of working people, tempered in class struggle, politically educated by more than a decade of experience in running their own affairs on the ground and organised neighbourhood communities and workers’, peasants’, students’ etc councils, will certainly forge ahead under the new set of leaders emerging from the historic movement. And of course, their hands will be strengthened by the spontaneous support of millions of comrades and a number of friendly governments in Latin America. So the road ahead may be tortuous but, as a great revolutionary leader of the 20th century used to say, the future is bright.

Box matter

A Life Dedicated to 21st Century Socialism

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias was born to schoolteacher parents in 1954 in the town of Sabaneta, in Barinas state, one of Venezuela’s poorest rural areas. He qualified in military arts and sciences at the National Military Academy and became an officer in a paratrooper unit. In the early 1980s Chávez and other radical officers founded the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement, which took its name from the nineteenth century Latin American independence leader Simón de Bolivar. As economic crisis set in during the “lost decade” of the 1980s thanks to neoliberal policies, the poor turned to rebellion and the government to brute repression, culminating in the week-long 1989 rebellion known as the Caracazo which was brutally repressed. Three years later Chavez attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, which was responsible for all that torture and exploitation. The coup failed and he was jailed. When Rafael Caldera was elected as president in 1994, he fulfilled a campaign promise to release Chávez because he knew that the latter enjoyed great popular support. Chavez then toured the entire country meeting people and mobilising support. In 1998 he was elected President and introduced a new constitution next year, followed by new elections in 2000 under the new constitution. He won again and passed a slew of reform laws and measures including nationalization of oil. The enraged opposition tried to topple Chávez via a coup on April 11, 2002, with the help of dissident military officers. They succeeded briefly, naming a businessman, Pedro Carmona, as interim President. The coup, however, was reversed within two days. But the big bourgeoisie and their parties continued with their destabilisation drive: a shutdown of the country’s all-important oil industry in late 2002, a recall referendum in 2004, and an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections in 2005 for example. But every time they were defeated thanks to the people’s active and overwhelming support to Chavez. His emphatic victories as President in 2006 and 2012 are well-known and so are his tireless campaigns for aiding, educating and empowering the masses. He breathed his last on 5th March this year in Cuba following an epic battle with cancer for two years.

Hugo Chavez fought and died for life – for a decent, humane life on earth. With his words and actions, the great communicator fired the imagination of the masses in his country and continent and the reverberations were felt all over the world. The people of India will always draw inspiration from him and, together with the people of the world, strive to make his magnificent dreams (“ dreams”, he said, “come to me like rain”) come true. Long live Hugo Chavez.

Liberation Archive