2003-10 Hugo Chavez and his Venezuelan revolution [Colome]

From News & letters, october 2003

A number of years ago the Marxist-Humanist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya wrote: “An idea that is not aimed toward liberation or freedom cannot be called an idea.” This is true in the case of Venezuela and the “revolution” that President Hugo Chavez is currently trying to implement.

Based on the old anti-colonial ideology of Simon Bolivar, “liberator” of South and Central America, Chavez has been trying to carry on a revolution that he calls the Bolivariana Revolution. But this has nothing to do with a revolution to establish a new society based on new human relationships.

The government of Venezuela has halted the sale of crude oil to the Dominican Republic and recalled its ambassador. According to the Venezuelan government, a coup against Chavez was planned in the Dominican Republic by ex-Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Perez, a Social Christian Democrat. Perez has been living in the Dominican Republic for several years and has invested large sums of money in newspapers, banks and hotels that he stole from Venezuelan workers while he was president.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia is fully supporting Perez. Chavez’s government has tried to extradite Perez so that he can be indicted for criminal acts, but so far this has been in vain.

At the same time, the Dominican Republic has been importing oil from Venezuela via an accord similar to ones arranged with Cuba and other Latin American countries. The president of the Dominican Republic therefore has been playing both sides of the fence in a very hypocritical way.


Many groups on the Dominican Left have been uncritical of Chavez’s Bolivariana Revolution. Many have portraits of Chavez which refer to him as the Vladimir Lenin of Latin America who will liberate the whole continent from the yanqui imperialists.

The anti-yanquism of Chavez is not a genuine anti-imperialist stand. If the Soviet Union were still around the Left would be leaning toward the Soviet imperialists in the same manner that it is leaning toward the Chinese imperialists. The Cuban state-capitalist autocrats have likewise given full support to Chavez because Venezuela has been the main provider of crude oil to Cuba since after the fall of the USSR. In exchange Cuba has provided Venezuela with technical and medical support as well as military information.

Even the Venezuelan Communist Party is supporting the Bolivariana project; they are old hard-core Stalinists who also collaborated with prior governments of Venezuela. Along with the Trotskyists, they view the Venezuela government as a step toward socialism.

It is a big mistake to portray Chavez as a socialist and a liberator. There is no sense of liberation and there is no philosophical basis in this “revolution” to “liberate” factory workers and peasants. The old conception of transferring private property into state hands guides these people, even though it has been proven that nationalized property is not socialism but just another form of exploitation–state-capitalism.


Though the opposition to Chavez has created great damage to the Venezuelan economy through boycotts, strikes and conspiracies, his government has not been able to carry over the land reforms that it promised to the peasants. Working conditions for urban workers have also not improved, despite the continuing export of oil to many countries.

Since Venezuela is the fourth largest exporter of oil on earth, the dream of the U.S. capitalists has been to control it and preserve Latin America as its backyard. This is the main reason the U.S. does not want a “nationalist” president in power in any country in Latin America.

Genuine Marxists should not take the position of the Maoists in Venezuela–who supported last year’s coup attempt against Chavez which was approved by the U.S. The Maoists supported the coup in the same manner that they publicly gave support to Pinochet’s government in Chile in the 1970s, on the grounds that Pinochet was against the USSR.

The Catholic Church is also a big opponent of Chavez because they can no longer obtain monetary influence and wealth from the Venezuelan people. Carlos Andrés Perez’s presidency was heaven on earth for the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

Only the autonomous and indigenous actions of the people of South and Central America and the Caribbean can free themselves and bring an end to the unfinished revolutions. Struggles based on a philosophy of liberation can establish a society of freely associated labor and new human relations.

Marcos, Los Angeles

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