An Affective Picture of Chavismo (XIII) – Fortress Under Siege

Venezuelan writer and intellectual Reinaldo Iturriza reflects on the "false dilemmas" that emerge in a context of (economic) war.


You are inside a fortress under siege. Naturally, you are defending it with everything you got. Amidst the battle you notice some people inside the fortress who, instead of defending it, and while claiming to defend it, are looting. Are you a traitor if you accuse the looters? Or are you a traitor if you keep silent?

Nobody in their right mind will opt for silence. Unless, of course, we are talking about the looters or their accomplices. But even in those cases the impostor may resort to the old pick-pocket trick of shouting “thief over there!” to throw off unsuspecting passerby.

Therefore silence is a false dilemma. For those of us holding the fortress, silence simply is not an option. The question is how to break it.

We are frequently faced with another false dilemma: economic war or corruption. It is true that the expression “economic war” has been so overused that in recent times the mere mentioning of it provokes immediate rejection. The problem with the expression is that it requires explanations –. we cannot do away with them so easily. We need to understand how the economic war manifests itself, its effects, how the forces involved operate, in other words, as with any war, the issues relating to tactics and strategy.

Furthermore, what is being done to confront the aggression logically needs to be explained. It is very common to hear comments such as: in a war there are shots fired from both sides, but in this case we are the only ones being shot at.

Things get further complicated when the expression is employed by figures who are not, in any way, ethical referents for Chavismo. In those cases, this economic war sounds like a mere excuse, a smokescreen in order to, in the worst case scenario, turn the weapons against the people they claim to defend, or to disguise what is widely understood as a complete absence of counteroffensive actions. Again: it is as if the economic war was some fatality, something we need to resign ourselves to, while someone tends to us and helps us with some of our wounds.

It really is a mystery how some people find it so hard to understand that for a political subject such as Chavismo it is inconceivable to have a war without an epic narrative. In other words, [we are presented with] a war where the popular classes are reduced to the role of victims in need of protection. Nothing could be further from Chavismo’s character, which has naturally been building its own narrative of the war. Not just because it suffers from its deadly effects, but also because it is not willing to remain passive.

The war, of course, is real, and goes beyond the economic realm. The problem, to a large extent, boils down to the severe shortcomings of the official narrative about the war. These shortcomings, coupled with popular disorientation typical of these kinds of situations, explain the false dilemma: economic war or corruption.

If public services collapse, one of the goals of the non-conventional war against Venezuela, we cannot brush aside the issue pinning it on the economic war, as if it were a one-size-fits-all magical expression. Public services also collapse because corrupt officials actively contribute to the collapse, as the situation offers lucrative opportunities. Similarly, there are factions inside public institutions who favor privatization of services, and corrupt officials work as a beachhead, creating the conditions for privatizations.

Who stands to benefit? Corrupt officials pocket some, just like those who secure the privatization. But the main winner is the one besieging the fortress. Somebody else is doing the dirty work for him, somebody else is causing damage behind enemy lines, in our territory.

Such a dilemma, economic war or corruption, does not exist. Without looking to absolve anyone of responsibility, it is absolutely true that corruption is a reflection of the cultural degradation induced by those waging war against us. And it is nothing new: it has taken place since the Spanish conquest. Degradation is brought by conquest, and the degraded population is dominated via the corruption of its leaders and institutions. It is not a moral issue, but a fundamentally political one. Those laying siege celebrate their partial victories when they see us mired in these false dilemmas, feeling miserable about the level of degradation we have reached.

Breaking the silence is the fastest way to stop this degradation process. And the best way to do it is to act without a second thought against those looting the fortress, often in plain sight, trafficking food or medicine in public, smuggling, extorting payments or food from producers on the highway. Other times this happens far from the public spotlight, signing deals with elements from the parasitic bourgeoisie, offering those who already have the upper hand all the present and future opportunities to continue robbing us.

It could be argued, rightly so, that the generalized and evidence-free accusation is as unacceptable as it is counterproductive, and that it is an expression of the degradation we wish to ward off. But when evidence piles up, betrayal is not taking action. Not taking action is like opening the fortress gates while claiming to defend it, betraying a people with a will to fight.

This is the thirteenth 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 VIIIpart IXpart XI, part XII.

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.