I’ve lost count of how many times, when faced with an injustice or abuse committed by some leader, public official, or military officer, the crowd reacts with outrage, asking itself how it is possible that these things happen in a revolution.
In fact, it is quite often the case that, especially when the abuses are very frequent or scandalous, when they are met with impunity or complicit silence, part of the audience is quick to declare that this revolution is no more than a farce. That at best there is a sham of a revolution, led by people who are not even willing to lift a finger to correct mistakes.
The outrage is perfectly understandable. However, as I once discussed, if it translates to political powerlessness then it is less than desirable.
First of all, and without trying to preach on the subject, we should ask ourselves what we mean by “revolution.”
We could say that a revolution is, by definition, conflict. In other words, everything but the absence of injustices. And while it is true that revolutionary leaders should do everything possible to fight excesses and abuses, it is no less true that leaders do not make the revolution. They lead it, for better or for worse. In fact, someone has delegated on them the responsibility of leading, or to say it more explicitly, of ruling while obeying the people.
If leaders are not capable of ruling while obeying, if they believe the tale of representation, if they feel comfortable not just paying no mind to demands but also disobeying the mandate of those they lead, then they are awful leaders. If that is the case, those who have delegated the leadership responsibilities are not just entitled but obligated to forge new leaders.
True, genuine leadership of a popular and radically democratic revolution rests on those from below: they are the ones who will rule and the leaders are the ones who will obey. They hold the power that makes revolutions possible. Those above and below come from the same people: if a leader circumstantially holds such a position it will be by popular mandate.
It is then said that the issue is that awful leaders abound, and on top of that they are less than willing to give in, because a lot is at stake. But that is precisely one thing that makes them awful leaders. The point is that the stubbornness of the worst leader is no match for the power of those who rule. The issue is being able to rule, and ruling is a matter of popular power.
If outrage in the face of injustices leads to powerlessness, we are already lost. There is nothing to be done. To put it differently: the first order of business is shaking off that powerlessness.
We will not be compliant, like those who stay silent when an injustice is committed and look the other way, be it because it is not the right moment, because we must not put our finger on that wound, because we cannot air out the grievances of the revolution. But powerless chest-thumping is useless. On the contrary, it feeds the soul of the compliant ones, who remain calm, undisturbed and firm like statues, and does nothing against the stubborn leaders.
Injustices need to be aired. That is only the first step. They need to be aired so as to multiply our power to act.
Of course, there are those who decide to denounce injustices as vigilantes who come to declare the revolution as lost. Who knows what desire for justice can be found in such an elegy to powerlessness. There are people who thirst for defeat.
That is we should tell apart those who expose injustices to fight them, or because they are already fighting them, and those who expose them with the goal of convincing us that there are no more reasons to struggle.
Naturally, in a revolution there are many injustices, mistakes, excesses. Even worse, many injustices are committed in the name of the revolution. It is not a matter of resigning ourselves, quite the contrary. But what else could be expected from a human feat of such monumental proportions?
How is it possible? It is not only possible, but to be expected. But such a certainty only makes sense if we are able to recall that a revolution such as ours is what the people do when they want to make possible what looked impossible just a short breath ago: a fairer world, a place where the pueblo rules.
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 I, part II, part III, part IV, part VI, part VII, part VIII, part IX, part XI, part XII, part XIII, part XIV.
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.