GISELA KOZAK ROVERO
Two recent documents in the social media, one from Red Conceptualismo Sur (“The situation in Venezuela”), and the other from the board of directors of Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO), can only provoke surprise with the reedited manicheism of the cold war expressed by academic, intellectual and artistic circles in which we supposed that the failure of the real socialisms of the twentieth century had been fully admitted. These circles were certainly hegemonic within what is conventionally called the social sciences and the humanities, and after this failure they directed their attack toward neo-liberalism and the enemy par excellence – North American hegemony. One of the main objectives of post-Marxism, whose authors include Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Michael Hardt, Toni Negri, among others, is to go beyond such schematic concepts as class struggle within the context of historical materialism, a theory which presupposed socialism as the inevitable destination of capitalism. True to its nature and organization, the World Social Forum assumes the impossibility of the national state as a means of transformation of the society and the notion of social movements substitutes the magical term, revolution. Both Jesus Marti Barbero and Nestor Garcia Canclini have taught us that our multiple cultures and world views surpass national identity, the impact of the mass media, and North American cultural hegemony, and clearly reveal that we are not automats managed by the dominant ideology. In the terrain of cultural critique, the most radical of this period to the beginning of the twentieth century was the determination of a sector of the so-called cultural studies, with figures such as John Beverley, (with great influence on a number of Venezuelans who have studied literature in the United States) in underlining the colonialist, racist, patriarchal and hegemonic strength of literature. In Berverly's view, critics like the Argentine Beatriz Sarlo are classified as neoconservatives because they conceive culture as not only the ideological arm of the hegemonic power to crush the subalterns but also as the expression of the complexities inherent in all societies.
This period of political and theoretical redefinition has not shown results of a meaningful transformation judging from the communities mentioned above. How soon certain commonplaces of the past are brought to bear again, and how enthusiastically certain members invoke the left to side with the anti North American discourse of the Venezuelan government and its consistent recourse to lying regarding the history of my country and the struggle of popular sectors. This particular left feeds on the anti-capitalism fantasies frequent in Latin America, and at the same time defines the whole continent as a single bloc through which all phenomena can be interpreted and explained alike. Rather than (post) Marxist, this left could be called “galeanista”, for it seems to depict each country as an illustration of the tendentious pamphlet Las venas abiertas de America Latina written by the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano. Instead of studying each national reality with intellectual depth and honesty, it remains the prisoner of a discourse about our continent inherited from the 20th century, whose genesis goes back to the support given to the Cuban revolution, the new hope for this radical left after the sad history of blood and poverty of Stalinism. For these dogmatic and real neo-Stalinists – even if they pretend to follow Laclau or Hardt – the principle of pleasure, that is, an easy ideological satisfaction, asserts itself over the principle of reality. As Raymond Aron (how terrible, a liberal thinker) would say, “ideocracy” is more important than democracy. For this left then Venezuela is a substitute for Cuba and Nicaragua, and hence the term Disney left used by many Venezuelans in the social network: Latin America, as seen by them, resembles a park of anti-hegemonic tendencies. Although a number of men and women within its ranks live in Latin America, frequently they have settled in the United States or Eastern Europe, since doubtless it is always better to work there than live permanently in either Cuba or Iran or stay in Venezuela and have access only to miserable salaries in the world of academia. No. Being a chavista in a university from the empire is much better. Would this be because of the “analytical distance”?
From the perspective of this left, 49% of Venezuelan opposition votes (a figure confirmed by the National Electoral Council in the presidential elections of April 2013), who protest daily against the world's highest inflation, insecurity and scarcity of basic supplies, are the members of a white supremacy and descendants of European immigrants, who before 1998 practiced a sort of “apartheid” against Afro-descendants, Indians and mestizos. Such horror stories as held by the Disney left would imply that slightly more than 7 million people (the 49% mentioned above) which belong to the upper middle classes and the bourgeoisie have consistently exploited the other seven million of the population, hated and despised for matters of class and race. Moreover, there is in Venezuela one exploiter for each person exploited – an unprecedented circumstance in the world. Furthermore, it is assumed that Venezuela serves the interests of the United States and the Colombian right through white fascist leaders who once in power would immediately cancel public education, health programs, public pensions and transfer to transnational companies the control of the oil industry, because naturally nothing in Venezuela occurs unless it is in the interest of the United States.
This perspective satisfies the racial and pseudo-progressive orthodoxies of the failed twentieth-century communist revolutions, which appropriated legitimate claims in a globalized world threatened by ecological damage, violence and poverty. But they represent an insult to all men and women of a confronted and divided nation who day after day must live with the ominous consequences of the Bolivarian revolution. It is an insult and a lie, a LIE in capital letters, that covers Venezuelan history, its economy and its social and political struggles with a dense ideological mantle. The Venezuelan opposition, just as the pro-government sector, is made up of people of all social strata and color, regardless of whether a certain academy associated with the Disney left tries to impose its analysis on Latin America. It is only an absurd Puritanism which would center the discussion of all Venezuelan problems on skin color. When in the United States Afro-American people were not allowed to sit in the same seats used by Anglo Americans in their buses during the forties of the last century we could boast already of a black minister of education, Luis Beltran Prieto Figueroa. Moreover, voting has been universal and secret since 1947. Education and public health are free, public pensions and social programs (now known as missions) have existed for years and were not created by the revolution. Venezuela had an economy which depended on the oil industry and the main administrator of this income was the state. This model entered into crisis in the 80s of the past century due to the fluctuations of oil prices and because governments irresponsibly assumed debt to satisfy a non-productive populism, history that repeats itself now in spite of the very high oil prices with the disastrous consequences for the population and without the results in public works and services of previous governments. The “right” in Venezuela is a coalition of the center-left, with organizations such as Voluntad Popular (party of Leopoldo Lopez), Avanzada Progresista, MAS, Alianza Bravo Pueblo and AD, registered in the Internacional Socialista. Maria Corina Machado is a liberal democrat and Henrique Capriles, of Primero Justicia, defines himself as a social democrat. Fascism? Of course not. From 1958 Venezuela has a democracy based on political parties. In regard to the United States, it is more occupied in other matters. I would suggest, above all to my U.S. colleagues, that they cease to think that everything revolves around their country. Although in their neo-Stalinist blindness, the Disney left does not believe it, things in the world take place that have nothing to do with the US because, in the Venezuelan case, we have our own history and problems. It would not appear to be sensible to believe the revolutionary government in its position that half of the voters are lackeys of the empire.
Those who have been busy with trying to construct a corporate and authoritarian state are the red leaders of the Bolivarian revolution, who promote through educational, cultural and communicational channels a very expensive personality cult of the Supreme Commander, a cult that has the characteristics of a state religion that mixes Christ, Simon Bolivar and Chavez in a holy revolutionary trinity that occupies the highest domestic altars. The members of the Disney left should ask themselves if a government that to discredit an adversary says that he is homosexual, as has been done with Capriles Radonsky, is the progressive government, the “rosy” tide that meets its desire for change. If the alternative to the transnationals of information is the strict monopoly of the Venezuelan government over the channels of the state used as propaganda instruments against the enemy, in the best Cuban and soviet style, I stay with the informational systems of the offended liberal democracies in which it is possible to find radically distinct positions. What for the Disney left are anti-hegemonic diversions is for us suffering, poverty and exclusion. And please, before thinking of April 11, 2002, I must indicate that the military coup in Venezuela was the route with which Chavez began to appeal to his future votes and that the people, for example Pedro Carmona, who carried out the authoritarian circus that returned the Supreme Commander to the presidency from which he had resigned, more closely resemble Chavez than the current Venezuelan opposition.
Moved by the community experiences fed with the petroleum income, the Disney left gives credit to a fantasy of direct democracy inspired in Rousseau that conceals the drama of living off state revenues, authoritarianism and economic failure. Great intellectuals and artists of the XX century were dazzled with the Soviet Union, China and Cuba with many disillusioned along the way, but among people of ideas and words dreams abound to influence social change and we commit a sin as old as philosophy to want to guide the tyrants in the style of Plato in Syracuse. Now it is done in the name of the “people”, the “subordinates”, the “multitude”, but as always, freedom is expelled as with the poets in the platonic republic and it is necessary to conform ourselves with food three times a day, a miserable scholarship or fifth-rate education: in sum, with a super state that distributes crumbs from the income. As our young minister of education, Hector Rodriguez, said (declaration available in YouTube): “We will not convert them into middle class so that they become a part of the squalid ones” (dissidents). The revolution does not follow the example of good public policies of Mujica, Rousseff and Bachelet, whose interests and formation – it has to be said – lead them to act as intermediaries of the Bolivarian revolution in the name of their radical followers, the economic interests of their countries and the militant anti-U.S. that makes dictatorships like the Cuban one possible but not like that of Pinochet in Chile, an unacceptable double standard that no true democrat can defend.
To conclude, and as the Brazilian philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger would say in La alternativa de la izquierda, the desire for change requires a realistic option that gives free rein to all the liberating potentialities existing in the world within the framework of a global market economy. Capitalism is not a homogenous system that is manifested in the same way throughout the planet: Sweden, Angola, United States and China are very different. Socialism, if we continue to use a word so discredited when based on the facts yet so full of hope, cannot be a machine of public beneficence as in Venezuela, where submission is demanded in exchange for subsidies. It is necessary to say goodbye to neo-Stalinism and goodbye to the Disney left that appropriate the desire for change in order to convert us into slaves of abstractions that are supplied from the prestige of university courses. The great enemy of this authoritarian left is the legacy of political liberalism: pluralism, human rights, individual creativity, diverse visions of the common good. Our duty as people of study and writing is to help formulate the reinvention of democracy and make freedom the force of change, not regress to the ramshackle archive of philanthropic state control through distribution of poverty or conform to a bureaucratic and spiritless social democracy. Venezuela does not require a hegemonic bloc that persuades the population that is unconvinced of the virtues of the revolution. No. It requires a project able to move the country forward, respect minorities, overcome living from state revenues and assume the challenge that state policies collaborate with the capacities of the people in such a way as to permit them to assume the reins of their personal life in terms of a better collective existence. We are and shall continue to be in this since even though the Bolivarian revolution is an elected despotism sustained on electoral victories (increasingly more doubtful and related to a blatant opportunism), Venezuelans who do not support the chavista movement have the right to exist and to be represented in the government. I invite the colleagues of the international academy who still have to analyze the serious errors of the revolution not to cease to support it, but rather to view the dissident sector with greater realism and to question the tall tales of the chavista propaganda that is so well-oiled with the resources of each and every man and woman of Venezuela.
PHD Literature. Full Professor (Central University of Venezuela). Writer
Ana Maria Fernandez
Ralph Van Roy