The Differences between February 4, 1992 and February 27, 1989

President Chavez, and columnist Antonio Aponte examine the differences between the Caracazo uprising in 1989 and failed coup attempt in 1992, and the role of a vanguard in the current Venezuelan situation.

The following is an excerpt from Hugo Chavez’s February 4, 2011 speech commemorating “4F” – the February 4 military rebellion he led in 1992. It touches on the “A Grain of Corn” column, included below.

“Those who die for life cannot be said to be dead”. The army and I would like to emphasize this quote, 19 years after that patriotic day, a day which we should call the 4th of February Revolution, it was within the national army where that force was nurtured …

Yesterday I was reading, as I do almost every day, the “A grain of corn” column that an old comrade,Toby Valderrama, publishes in the Diario Vea [newspaper], and he makes a very interesting point there, as far as I understand it. He clearly establishes the differences that there was and are in history, for the lessons that history offers us, between that tremendous jolt, that tremendous rebellion of the 27th of February, that of the 28th of February, the Caracazo, and the revolution of the 4th of February.

Nobody planned the Caracazo. The Caracazo exploded in a spontaneous way, but it had no leadership, it had no political project, the people did not go towards the centre of power, no, they dispersed, they were massacred.

The 4th of February on the other hand obeyed a thought-out project, planned for several years. Right here in Valencia there were many meetings, near the hippodrome, this hippodrome that I know so well. There we frequently met with young officers—I’m talking about 1978. The first cells existed of what later would become the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200.

It was the end of the seventies and the eighties passed by in the same way. And within the National Army a force was amassing, growing in the Army. Meanwhile, nearly all the revolutionary political forces dispersed, dissolved, extinguished. And I remembered last night one of Simon Bolivar’s phrases, in some document that Bolivar wrote: “the Army is the people that can”. That’s how it happened here. This expression of Bolivar has its context, but I think that it was perfectly applicable to the context of Venezuela in the seventies, in the eighties and in the nineties – “the people that couldn’t”, “the people that had no way”. That was shown perfectly by the Caracazo, the people couldn’t, they didn’t have power to influence the situation neither via the fixed, faked, manipulated elections, nor via other ways. The people could not through guerrilla war, the people could not in the factories, the working class could not, the campesinos could not, the students could not, in spite of their immense sacrifice.

The people could not. They kept bashing themselves against the wall, falling, picking themselves up and bashing against the wall again. And then the Bolivarian phrase – “the army is the people that can” – became a reality, and that was shown on the 4th of February, 1992.

But today the phrase has been transformed. We’re no longer in 1992. It was the army, “the people that could”, because we are the children of the people that were in the army and we constitute a vanguard movement. It was a vanguard that set out at midnight on that 3rd of February, and that is another of the ideas that Toby Valderrama yesterday touched on in his “A Grain of Corn” column, and I think it’s really timely for the debate that we are having on the Strategic Lines of Political Action, because a vanguard is always needed.

There are those that proclaim anarchist ideas, that deny the need for organization, that deny the role of the vanguard. But in reality, Venezuelan history shows that the people without a vanguard is manipulated. A people without a conscious and committed vanguard tends to get lost in the spaces of the struggle.

The vanguard must be maintained, it must be strengthened. Today the vanguard is the party, it has to be a coherent organisation, with an ideological, political project. The Socialist Party must become a great vanguard. And, I’m going to say as well, the Army. The Army. And when I say the Army, I’m of course also referring to the Navy, the Air Force, the National Guard, and the Militia.  The Army has to continue to be a revolutionary vanguard of the people.

The 4th is not the Child of the 27th, on the Contrary, it Refutes it

By Antonio Aponte http://ungranodemaiz.blogspot.com/

Continuing to comment on the first of the Five Strategic Lines in the document proposed by the PSUV leadership for discussion, it’s timely to refer to a paragraph that without doubt influences the rest of the document, determines its vision.

The document says: “after the civic-military rebellions of the 4th of February and the 27th of November 1992, daughters of the popular rebellion of the 27th of February of 1989…”

Consideration of this point is of vital importance for the progress of the revolution, because the positions we take, the ideologies we have, will determine the function of the party – as either a vanguard or a mere electoral machine.

Let’s analyse what happened.

February 27 was a “popular revolt”, without any political aim or organisation.  It revealed the failure of a left wing leadership that was defeated, exhausted, and had succumbed to the comfort of the oligarchy’s table, or taken refuge in anarchistic positions denying the role of leadership, the role of political and social organization, leaving the masses without a compass, without a vanguard. That formidable explosion did not go beyond being a “jacquerie”, a riot, when it could and should have been the seizure of government, the start of the revolutionary road.

By contrast, the 4th of February was an eminently political action, an action of the vanguard aimed at raising the awareness of the people, at leading them.  It was a return to being, and leading, a defeat of  the renunciation of leadership, a victory over the anarchistic ideology that failed on the 27th of February.

The tank smashing through the doors of Miraflores is symbolic, a clearly political action, seizing power, and its defence.

So to say, as the document does, that today we analyse the 4th of February as the child of the 27th, is to agree with the anarchistic current – that it’s not necessary to organise and politicise the masses, and worse still, that a vanguard is not necessary. On the contrary they combat it because it could become a “church”.

It is to endorse this anarchistic petit-bourgeois current, and add obstacles to the further strengthening of the party.  If the 27th is the way to go…  then what good is the party?  It will be at best a “transmission belt”.  This position obscures the strong need for a vanguard party to lead the people in combat.

It’s revolutionary to think that the 4th of February surpasses the 27th’s dispersion and lack of leadership.  It demonstrates the need for a vanguard.

A crucial issue thus emerges in the discussion: Is a vanguard necessary? What is the party for?

We think it is [necessary].  Without a vanguard party leading the battle the people won’t be able to advance. It is possible to build it without privileges, without it being turned into a church – that is the challenge.  To strengthen it we need to defeat the anarchistic ideology that impedes its concretion. Our flaws are firstly ideological; and then organisational.

Both translations, and comments, by Owen Richards