In Praise of Chavismo

If Chavismo focuses on efficient leaders and proposes an agenda that prioritizes economic and productive decisions and the defense of social policies, then it will have the best chance of winning the recall referendum that we will face in 2016. But if an injured government only focuses on “taking out” the people who “got them,” then it will simply be condemned to remain a minority, or worse still to disappear from the political map.


1. The fact that nearly 6 million Chavistas went out today to support the government is an amazing reality. With the government unable to confront the economic war, a self-obfuscating communication strategy, a leadership that is totally bureaucratized and isolated, what happened today is a show of strength by the Chavista grassroots.

2. Now, that this was not enough to ensure electoral victory is an obvious political fact that could only have been ignored due to the leadership’s machine-worship [maquinolatría, literally: machinolatry] on all levels. Their speeches were hollow, arrogant masters of the meta-narratives whose collapse prevented them from seeing the political alienation that has led them astray. Chavismo’s electoral campaign merely revealed all the weaknesses of its proto-leaders, incapable of winning a single vote by themselves.

3. Now is not the moment for blame. Nicolás is not the only one responsible. This hegemonic decline could already be seen clearly when Chávez was in command. If he were alive, he would probably be witnessing a new setback as well, although we certainly couldn’t imagine the economic inaction that began even before his death. There were many R’s [“rectification, revision, relaunching”] and the results were really non-existent.

4. But beyond who is responsible, what is in sight today, for the first time, is not Chavismo, but the neo-opposition. An opposition that faces the difficult challenge of unifying within itself everyone from the racist ultra-right to the “reflexive Chavistas” that today chose to punish the government by not only abstaining but even by voting for the MUD. Let’s focus on understanding this subject: there are many within the opposition today who voted for Chavismo in the last elections. Will they stay there or return to Chavismo, like the 7% of the electorate that voted against Chávez in 2010 but returned in 2012? That’s what politics is for.

5. But no one should fool themselves. That “reflexive Chavismo” that abstained or voted for the opposition today is nothing less than proof that those votes in favor of the opposition were in no way a vote for, but a vote against. And let’s not lie to ourselves: there are plenty of reasons to vote against. But moreover, it is a torrential vote that can return to Chavismo if the opposition shows itself incapable of maintaining the unity of racist groups who will try to impose their agenda and a popular vote that will soon demand the economic improvements promised by the opposition’s campaign.

6. The central error has been not confronting economic malaise in a statesmanlike way. The narrative of the “economic war” today lost the legitimacy it had at the time of the Dakaso [when Maduro took over the electronics chain Daka, for illegal price gouging]. The few months that remain before the opposition calls a referendum to recall [Nicolás Maduro] should be dedicated exclusively to shedding light on the economic situation, although this is hardly a taboo subject in official speeches at present—not as taboo as those responsible for the economic situation, who have not faced the consequences, and who nobody knows why they still have their positions. Without economic auctoritas, there will be no confidence in this government, which will collapse without even putting up a fight.

7. In the current moment, with the ball in the opposition’s court, we will see what subjects they put on the public agenda. If the only points they put on the agenda are to finish off the government, sabotage it, free Leopoldo [López] and rush into a recall referendum, the torrential vote of the opposition might dissipate and return to Chavismo. And the opposition also appears to lack any plan to escape from the economic crisis, and is now also jointly responsible for it.

8. On the contrary, if Chavismo focuses on efficient leaders and proposes to the country a legislative, but above all a political agenda, that prioritizes economic and productive decisions and the defense of social policies, then Chavismo will have the best chance of winning the recall referendum that we will face in 2016. But if an injured government only focuses on “taking out” the people who “got them,” then it will simply be condemned to remain a minority, or worse still to disappear from the political map.

9. If one thing is clear, it’s that the Venezuelan people don’t want any more empty talk. Chávez could shoot the shit and it worked for him—but the people see right through everyone else. The people want serious leaders, statespeople, not people making bad jokes, or political operatives repeating empty speeches, or empty words. Neither Maduro nor [Diosdado] Cabello seem to point in that direction—their previous scares did not train them for it. The tragedy of the present won’t help them if the Chavista people do not undertake an excruciating process of interpellation, in which their positions as leaders are obviously under a “state of suspicion.” Will they be able to reinvent themselves?

10. The leadership needs to understand well the people’s contempt for politicking. Any claim to “seize the streets” will not be recognized by the people unless they can understand why. That is, unless the opposition implements measures that lead to popular rejection. Cohabitation implies a political maturity that neither leaders of the government nor the opposition have. The most serious will end up winning, and when we say serious, we mean a leader that can tell the country how to get out of the crisis, not tells them that the other one is worse.

11. What has died in the country is political debate as an ideological debate about “great fundamental truths.” Politics has been defeated by the economy. The politics that emerged since 2010, according to which I am bad but the other is worse, doesn’t work for Chavismo. There has not been a single piece of legislation during the last three legislative periods that is so “worth it” that we might think we have lost something. What is lost was already lost since the Assembly lost its ability to do politics, to legislate and control, to confront the vices developing in national politics.

12. The thesis of mediatic impotence continues to ring true. Getting rid of RCTV and Globovisión didn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter if we have dozens of public media outlets that no one wants to watch. Buying print media doesn’t matter. Politics is not in the media, and much less in those media. This is something that Chavismo understood from the beginning but which was forgotten by a leadership that believed that they could govern through bad television programs. The public media are an embarrassment for Chavismo, and that’s why people prefer the private media. Something like this happened to politics on December 6th. The discourse of loyalty, patriotism, the new man, was trapped by a lack of certainty in the economic future, and this, far from implying disloyalty, implies instead the reflexivity of the popular world. We will need to grasp it if we want to keep up the fight.

Translated by George Ciccariello-Maher. Originally published at Kalé: http://hablakale.blogspot.com/2015/12/elogio-del-chavismo.html

Ociel Alí López is a Venezuelan writer, blogger, lecturer at the UCV in sociology and communication and co-founder of Avila TV.