An Affective Picture of Chavismo (XI): The Bourgeoisie

In the latest installment of his series, Reinaldo Iturriza looks at those who have become rich in the shadows of the Bolivarian Revolution.


It is not the traditional bourgeoisie which I have in mind here, mediocre, rapacious, provenly and undoubtedly parasitic, despite its advertising campaigns which look to convince us of its supposed efficiency, and through which it has forged a grotesque caricature of the nation, made to suit its interests.

But rather I refer to the new bourgeois class that has emerged under the protection of the Bolivarian Revolution. This class has taken advantage of its close relationship with state institutions to steal public money, often in cahoots with the traditional bourgeoisie and winking at the oligarchy.

The fact that it is newly formed does not make it any less rapacious: the newly rich are known for their restless desire to climb [the social scale] and catch up with the old rich, accumulating property at a breakneck pace and mimicking a lifestyle that was foreign to them until recently. They flaunt and spend ill-gotten riches, rubbing shoulders with moguls and celebrities and surrounding themselves with models, often in a Western metropolis or a city which aspires to be one.

Self-conscious, uncultured – even by the strict standards of the elites – the newly rich prefer Panama, Miami and Madrid to New York, London and Berlin. But this is just a colorful detail. As with the parasitic bourgeoisie, the new bourgeoisie is known for its unbreakable desire to take most of its capital out of Venezuela. The country is a mine to be looted. That is how it has been, and the bourgeoisie is convinced it will remain so, which is why there is no reason to let the opportunity pass them by.

The newly rich’s thought process is curious, but not for lack of knowledge. If they have read Marx, and given that socialism in Venezuela still exists in the public discourse, they will try to justify the creation of a new bourgeoisie by referencing the necessary development of productive forces. In other words, the sadly famous stages through which we would inevitably need to pass before being able to properly discuss transcending capitalism.

The extensive, diverse and rich debates surrounding the failures of stage-ism, which can be found with a minimum amount of political will and intellectual honesty in revolutionary historiography, Marx included, are completely foreign or simply inconvenient [for them]. They ignore the debates about the “weakest link” [in the capitalist chain], to mention but one example, or dismiss them as empty words.

They are also ignorant of the history of Russia and China, but this goes beyond pure ignorance. It does not take an expert to reach the conclusion that the “market economy” is not the answer. A bit of common sense will suffice. It is not the answer even for China, as far as I understand. But beyond what I may or may not know, the point is that the new class does not even see this as an issue.

Not knowing about Marx and the history of Russia and China, the newly rich could at least try to understand the commune. It is a big ask, for sure, but the truths need to be said, even when they sound far fetched: it does not take a vast knowledge of history or to be well read, which surely helps, to understand the decisive role of the commune. All it takes is to know a bit of Venezuelan history, to love the land we live in, to follow the basic principles of revolutionary politics, understand basic rules of the economy and trust the strength of the organized people. Nothing we have not come across during the past twenty years.

If the newly rich are incapable of understanding the commune, imagine those who were born rich. But they are villains in horror stories, a totally different matter.

It must be very sad to belong to the new bourgeoisie. Forced to bleach themselves to appear thoroughbred, incapable of disguising their class origins, despised by the traditional bourgeoisie, the oligarchy, and the people. They did not waste the chance to join the looting, but they lost the opportunity to build something really great and lasting forever. That is the truth.

To proclaim oneself victorious when so many people feel defeated is one of those things which one does not wish upon your worst enemy. But they are doomed to be defeated in the history books, and by those of us who are convinced that revolutions are not made to create new rich people. Let us be precise, and this is very important, because it shields us against despair: all revolutions hatch the newly rich. Revolutions are made by humans, not divinities. The mistake of the newly rich is precisely to believe themselves divine, and this original sin is what makes them hopelessly vulnerable, as they believe their time will never come. But it will, in due course.

For a while, global capital’s propaganda machine has made use of the new class to convince us that revolutionary change is impossible, that every transformative effort is useless. The verdict is old: every revolution ends, invariably, in betrayal. This is a common theme in conservative historiography. It goes, however, much further: it looks to have us believe that every popular achievement is a privilege, that if we speak of revolution we are doomed to live in misery. The privileges of the new class are thus the confirmation that we have done nothing more than create false illusions.

It is, of course, a trap for the unwary. To fall for it is a luxury we cannot afford.

The Revolution is here. The new class an unavoidable accident. An accident which does not measure our failure, but rather everything that is still to be done.

This is the eleventh installment of a series of texts by Venezuelan writer and theorist Reinaldo Iturriza. Follow the links for the previous texts: part Ipart IIpart IIIpart IV, part VIpart VIIpart VIII, part IX.

Translated by Ricardo Vaz for Venezuelanalysis.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.