Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Real ex-Revolutionary Says Chavez Wants To "Buy" a Revolution

Courtesy of the Devils Excrement, a translation of an article by Joaquin Villalobos. Villalobos was the leader of one of the main factions of the Marxist-Leninist FMLN during the civil war in the 80's. Probably the most ruthless of FMLN guerilla commanders, he is alleged to have personally executed poet Roque Dalton in the 70's. But he was also its most skilled field commander, who is respected even by former adversaries as a tactician and leader.

After the war he renounced Marxist-Leninism and moved to the center, and has been an adviser to Colombia's government. Leading a Marxist Insurgency that went from less than 100 to thousands in the space of ten years, gives him "revolutionary credentials." His take on Chavez is pretty interesting to read. Originally published in El Pais, here is the translation. Chavez wants to buy himself a revolution translated by The Devil's Excrement:

Chavez wants to buy himself a revolution
Joaquin Vilalobos

With a lack of conditions and credentials to make a revolution, the Venezuelan President relies on provocations. The closure of RCTV, his last act of brave arrogance, has reverted against him the process of
accumulation of strength and revitalizes an opposition that was demoralized. Normally parents punish their kids banning them from watching TV, however Cubans when their kids behave badly, are forced to
watch state TV. Chavez has made a grave error in shutting down a pro-opposition TV station that had been on the air for more than half a century. Like it or not, this was not an attack on the capitalist mediatic power, but a direct hit to the cultural identity of Venezuelans that will have severe implications for the Government.To pretend to replace soap operas and the entertainment of the poor with pathetic "revolutionary" programming is as grave as leaving them without food. The starting point of this and other mistakes by Chavez is to believe that he has made a revolution, while all he has done is simply to have won elections and this did not happen because of his accomplishments, but for the errors and arrogance of an opposition that has many jewels and not much popular backing. This helped him get an electoral majority that allowed him to control institutions and change some rules, but it has not given him sufficient correlation to impose a drastic ideological turn like he is pretending. There has been no revolutionary rupture in Venezuela, like there was in Cuba and Nicaragua, where democracy had no precedent. In Cuba the change was violent and complete, all of the institutions were founded again and up to today, there is no opposition, nor elections, nor freedom of the press, nor private property. In Nicaragua the change was equally violent, even if it damaged freedom of the press, elections and private property survived. Venezuela may have an extreme crisis of polarization or a prolonged period of unrest, but not a revolution. When that happens political violence takes preeminence first as a rebellion and later with a counter-revolution. In Venezuela, political violence continues to be more verbal than real. Sleeping with the enemy. Forty years of pacific alternation built a democratic culture among Venezuelans that up to now has managed to block political violence. In Venezuela there is a weakened legality, but there is legality. The mistake of the opposition coup in 2002 was precisely to ignore the importance of this. It is not easy to overthrow Governments and it is also not easy to radically and coldly modify the pillars of a preexisting system. A revolutionary rupture creates a situation of great social exaltation that, for better or worse, opens spaces to change many things, including ideological or cultural topics, very sensitive in a society, however, these are the hardest to change. Anti-capitalist revolutions emerged more from dictatorships than from poverty. In Venezuela there was no dictatorship and poverty was not important in Chavez' ascent, even if is today to defend him. All revolutions are austere and this is not known by Venezuelans from either the right or the left. Venezuela is neither an industrial, nor an industrious capitalist country, but rentist and consumerist. Chavez is strengthening the economic role of the State redistributing oil income and forming new economic elites via populism, business opportunities and corruption. All of this is neither new, nor a revolution, nor is it socialism. Chavez does not have a revolutionary party but a fragmented political structure, composed by a diverse ideological mix. To his right are the military, to his left some intellectuals and below him a multicolor base. To turn that into a party implies to confront a whole bunch of leaders who are accustomed to express their dissent. Chavismo has done something positive in giving power and identity to thousands of Venezuelans that were excluded but its political structure is not cohesive neither by its ideology, nor by its history, but by oil income. Chavez does not have a revolutionary army; on the contrary, the Army has defeated him twice (1992 and 2002). The current complicity of the Army depends on weapons purchases, which are not in preparation for combat but lucrative corruption, and are precisely these privileges that shutdown the path to revolutionary ideas. The Venezuelan army will not kill nor die for Chavez. Fidel Castro survived innumerable attempts on his life, Ortega led a triumphant insurrection and Evo Morales jumped from the barricades to the Presidency. Chavez, on the other hand, sells oil to the Americans, in two occasions has surrendered without fighting and sleeps with an enemy's army. This pushes him to use provocations that allow him to obtain his revolutionary credentials, at least with an insult of Bush. The attacks strengthen him and his tolerance weakens him. He needs external enemies that help him hide the corruption of his civil servants, the incompetence of his Government, the divisions among his ranks and the insecurity in the streets of the country. With the closure of RCTV, Chavez is reverting against him the process of accumulations of strengths and is revitalizing a demoralized opposition. Perhaps Chavez may make changes in Venezuela, but he will never be able to eliminate elections and in these, there are no unmovable majorities, nor eternal alliances, nor insurmountable fraud. The money from oil can help Chavez to do many things, but it will never allow him to buy a