Hugo Chavez is the Son of this People, not the Father

Interview with Venezuelan social activist and author Roland Denis, regarding the formation of the “Great Patriotic Pole” in view of the up-and-coming 2012 presidential elections. 

How do you view the formation of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP)?

First of all, it brings back a lot of bad memories, because it takes me back to the era of “miquilenismo” (following the leadership of political figure Luis Miquilena, a group fractured from the MVR in early 2002) and the movement of the MVR into the previous Patriotic Pole (PP), just like the constituent process, presided over by a character as dark and ridiculous as Herman Escarrá.

The fact that the same name has been used doesn’t grab my attention much. However, I understand that Hugo Chavez’s intention at the moment is, first of all, to undertake an evaluation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) failure as a political direction and electoral platform. 

What is the failure of the PSUV?

Since the PSUV was formed, Chavismo has been losing votes. There is a connection between these two things. I don’t know how many millions of votes have been lost, but in the last elections they weren’t very happy, that is a blatant fact. If the Bolivarian Revolution has an ontological origin, politically speaking, then it is related to the rejection of parties and the “party logic”.

In your opinion, is the creation of the GPP a result of this failure?

Chávez, who is not stupid by any means, knows that whatever circumstances present themselves next year are going to be extremely difficult. The polls are favourable towards Chávez at the moment, but as soon as the right manage to unify themselves behind a candidate, they will receive a number of votes that right now aren’t on either side (with Chávez or the opposition).That‘s in electoral terms.

Chávez is currently creating a different scenario. He can’t stand as president with the PSUV under those circumstances, because they would lose the elections. This obliges him to reconfigure a space, a political front which will allow him to approach the elections with an capacity for mobilisation and a conviction which right now he’s not going to be able to achieve, either through himself or the communicational entities of the state.

And that’s the reason, at least which I believe, that they are calling for the formation of the GPP.

Are there differences between the current GPP and the former Patriotic Pole (PP)?

That I don’t know. There seem to be. Chávez knows that calling for a meeting of the party leadership, (the PSUV, the PCV – Venezuelan Communist Party- and some of the more renowned social movements and political parties) and those parties then simply forming a pole by decree, whether it is called “patriotic” or something else, is going to fail.

That’s why this dynamic has to be much more complex, much broader, much more based on mass meetings, more grassroots, and that is what he is trying to construct right now. There are comrades who are involved in the same struggles as I am, and they have been present and made some proposals related to the need to use the GPP as an electoral vehicle (inevitable). However, also the need to use it as an instrument for the configuration – as far as is possible – of a collective leadership of the process, and secondly, the possibility that the GPP will serve to re-establish a programmatic alliance with Hugo Chávez Frias.

That’s to say, that support for Chávez won’t be given because he is a great leader, or for the person he is, or for the great affection that he inspires, or simply as a way of rejecting the rightwing or for very primitive reasons, but rather due to deeper reasons, programmatic reasons, which should be widely debated by the grassroots sectors in great assemblies. That is our proposal.

When you say “our”, who are you referring to?

To people who come from projects such as Our America, the Guarura Network, different collectives that lean towards the same social libertarian current, in the country. From within that sphere, we are proposing the creation of ten assemblies.

Why ten assemblies?

Because we have proposed a debate surrounding ten themes, relating to land, services, popular power, international policy, oil policy, indigenous policy, communities, problems with workers’ control, with socialism itself, with morale and problems within the structure of the state.

These ten assemblies must generate a programmatic consensus and a charter for the communal struggle. That charter would be debated and negotiated directly with Hugo Chávez and put to him to be signed as a programmatic commitment to those points, if he is in agreement, of course. If that were to be done, as a candidate for the presidency on behalf of this sphere, then it would make sense to call it the GPP.

Why would it make sense to call it the GPP?

Because it would be defending a programmatic theory. Because then it is not just about defending the candidacy of Hugo Chávez, as if the problem were an emotional matter. Or simply a caudillo, (19th century local strongmen) supporting the caudillo and nothing else.

What would happen if this call (to form the GPP) ends up just being part of the electoral situation and nothing else?

It is most likely that it will go no further than that in the immediate sense. The most probable outcome is that the pole will dissolve once Hugo Chávez is re-elected, if he is re-elected.

Faced with that situation, we would have something more interesting – not a pledge signed by the new president, which is the same president, but a pledge signed by him (Chávez) though which we would re-found ourselves and re-structure  a programmatic agreement, for which there is a social movement which directly supports the candidacy of Hugo Chávez.

With that agreement, all the social movements in Venezuela could demand that Chávez, in accordance with his commitment, fulfil certain criteria. We could order him. “Well my brother, you committed yourself to this, why haven’t you honoured your commitment?”

We would have a signed pledge with which he will keep being president of the republic.

If Chavismo was born out of a rejection of party logic, how would the GPP survive with structures such as those of the PSUV?

The organic space that could be built from within the GPP will co-exist extremely uneasily with structures such as those of the PSUV. With the internal erosion of that party, with a dynamic as awful as cooption, how can a great popular front co-exist with a party that is based around the cooption of some of the leaders who have been imposed there at the same time?

But it’s not like these movements are from another planet, many collectives that have signed up to the GPP are part of the PSUV…

That is a contradiction amongst them. I know that a lot of them are there in order to obtain positions. Others sign up to the GPP because it didn’t go too well for them in the PSUV or perhaps because it’ll be better for them with a different name. There are lots of “briefcase” organisations that are looking for resources or positions. That will happen because it is already happening and that is, unfortunately, a practice which repeats itself within many of the popular movements in Venezuela.

In that sense, there is a terrible erosion of the popular movement. The very dynamic of the state deepens this erosion by establishing a corporate state practice with these movements. That’s to say that the state behaves like a managerial business which directs units from that business, who are the communal councils and other grassroots organisations. With that mentality, “I am the business and you are the base units of that business” and that statist corporate vision, the popular movement has been eroded, causing it to lose its autonomy and its ability to fight. The biggest loss to the revolutionary process is the fact that popular organisations have stopped being groups involved in the collective struggle.

By ceasing to be reference points for the struggle, they stop existing for people. The same people who don’t have anything to do with militancy, or with politics; the people and the common current sees that collective as a way of maintaining the same old traditional clientelism of the bourgeois “Adeco” state (referring to Democratic Action, one of Venezuela’s traditional parties that monopolised power from 1958-1998). The relationship between the collective and the people becomes something driven by personal interest and something through which social organisations can get a house, a job or a favour, history ends up repeating itself.

Next to the corporate bureaucratic republic are the liberal oligarchic republic and the self-governing republic, (still in construction) in which the majority is Chavista, electorally speaking, due to an emotional attachment to the figure of Hugo Chávez, but nothing to do with him in organic terms, because they don’t have any real relationship with Chávez. Hugo Chávez is a figure for the media, he’s symbolic, and he constitutes a “metaphysic” within the process. Those belonging to the self-governing republic are driving forward the original ideology of the popular Bolivarian constituent process. In this sense, there is a very interesting revolutionary phenomenon going on in Venezuela.

Where are these experiences being carried out?

They have been creating new organisations, new practices, new relations, almost all of them, around 90%, have met head on with immediate authorities or non-immediate ones, call them mayoralties or government institutions. An example of this is the Confederation of Communal Councils in the mountains of Falcón state and the practically violent confrontation they have had with the government of the area. And we are talking about the same political camp here: Chavismo.

These are circumstances which the country is experiencing; similarly there is the “Cold Movement” in Barquisimeto state. A collective which started as a movement to defend the occupation of buildings and houses but which has now developed into a popular movement.

These organisations which are recovering their capacity for collective struggle end up resigning themselves to being movements which confront the constituted power. That is normal and it couldn’t be any other way. It’s an experience which we have to go through.

We’re not talking about a total decadency or anything like that. Yes, we are talking about a very decadent and perverse political tendency which has been consolidating itself and crystallising within the state, as would naturally happen, above all within the petroleum sector. But there is another self-governing tendency constituted within the workers’ movement, the peasants’ movement, the communal councils and indigenous groups, which is bearing very interesting fruits in this sense.  The GPP orbits around all of this, or what I can defend as the virtual patriotic pole that is to be built.

This GPP faced with the figure of Hugo Chávez, what relationship would they have?

A supportive relationship. In principle, we are there to support him. Now, why do we support him and under what conditions do we support him? There the caudillo ends and the political relationship between a man and a concrete comrade begins. That relationship must be re-established within a programmatic agreement borne of the assemblies and a consensus surrounding fundamental issues and strategies which are crucial for the country.

A concrete case, for example, relations with Colombia. Are we really going to remain silent when there is a fascist government that continues “disappearing” people, and us lending them a hand in Venezuela? Under those circumstances, I cannot support Hugo Chavez. There are more disappearances under the government of Uribe than all of the dictatorships of the Southern Cone. And the practice continues just the same. Right now in Colombia they are passing a law which allows for total impunity with regards to the human rights violations that are being committed in that country.

What does the popular current propose with respect to this?

That we go back to the starting point, to what Chavez’s position was when he had just started as president. Which is an absolutely legitimate position, and doesn’t clash with the so called “international order”. Chávez recognised that there is a war in Colombia. There isn’t a government and a group of terrorists that are sabotaging the government’s work.

There is a social and civil war, which has been going on for decades and it affects us as a country, it is internalised in our country. We have every right to ask, to demand peace in Colombia, and in that sense the Venezuelan government is promoted as an agent of peace in Colombia. That wasn’t a war mongering position against a neighbour, but rather the declaration of peace, because there are Venezuelans that die for that war. We have almost 300 dead peasants, many of them killed by hired-assassins from Colombia, does that really mean nothing?  But that is just one point. We could talk about oil policy, mining and other transcendental topics.

There are those who believe that collective leadership detracts from Hugo Chavez’s leadership, what is your opinion with regards to this?

There is a problem with Hugo Chavez’s leadership which is so absurd, that it reduces us to being social movements at the side of a caudillo in the 19th century countryside. It is as if we were debating with Zamora. But this isn’t the Venezuela of the Federal War. Hugo Chavez can’t simply be the leader that commands, that gives recitals in front of an ignorant people with no ideas, proposals or history. Hugo Chavez is the son of this people; he is not the father of this people. We gave birth to Hugo Chávez, we gave birth to that leadership. Some sectors within the government try to create a relationship between the ignorant people and the brilliant leader. It is impossible to object to absolutely anything before this guiding light, nor propose something that he hasn’t proposed, much less to actually reject something which he has said.

Some people are waiting for Hugo Chavez to say that this is a bourgeois state, bureaucratic and corrupt, so that we have permission to say it. It is a total absurdity, a terrible bureaucratic ass-kissing that is imposed there, forming little tribes of power that have been crystallising around some people, who have a kind of eternal permission to be where they are and to do what they want.

I’m not asking Hugo Chavez to be the best governor in the world; I’m just saying that this exists and that it is absurd, that our relationship is a reflection of the courtesan attitude of the corrupt Venezuelan bureaucracy.

According to Roland Denis, what should our attitude be?

We should adopt a critical, belligerent and constructive attitude. Because here, the vanguard is the poor classes, the working classes. Where is a collective light, an authentic vanguard, going to come from? This revolution began with the most inorganic poles of the people.

On the 27/02/1989 (the Caracazo), it started there, where the people had no organisation, where there nothing but a simple historic rage of being who you are, eternally marginalised, eternally hungry. Those hungry marginalised people started the process. This belongs to them. The leadership of the process is there and it is effectively made there.

There is a courtesan bureaucracy that goes there daily in order to break the process of revolutionary maturation, formed by the very government that has been generated from all those spaces, that have been evaluated with the passage of time and that prevent the possibility that this process is creative, using ridiculous and absurd arguments like a collective leadership would reject the leader. Of course it would reject the caudillo of the 19th century, but it would reaffirm a revolutionary leader of the 21st century.

Now there are those who want to return to the 19th century so that they can keep their positions in PDVSA (state oil company), but that is the problem of doing things without the collective, being a truly counterrevolutionary attitude.

If only it were just an attitude, but it is a practice…

Of course, and they do it because they have resources. Because the state is nothing more than that, weapons plus a chequebook, that is the state, that is what it blackmails people with, and evidently the people don’t have weapons, or chequebooks, and they need them. So the people have to negotiate what they don’t have and in that process, a people who assess their social processes are created and they distance themselves from the state and they continue to create their self-governing experiences, of their own making, which allow them to get resources for determined projects.

That’s very anarchic of the state, no? These self-governing practices are often captured by the bureaucratic state and end up being just one more representative of state corporatism.

That wouldn’t be a problem in itself, because that would be the logic of any state. No state would provoke the possibility that a subject is created in order to reject the state as such. Thus, it is just doing what it has to do and we are clear about that, and much more if we’re talking about a state that isn’t built by a revolution that destroyed the old state, through revolutionary violence, but still destroyed. The old state is still there, in all its entirety.

Let’s take the example of the judiciary. In this country, the poor are prisoners, but the really, really poor, those that can’t pay 60,000 bolivars, which is what you have to pay at the moment to not end up a prisoner.

All the powers are totally rotten.

The problem isn’t that the state is rotten, but that outside of the state there are people with a historic relationship to the principal leaders of the government apparatus and that through that privileged relationship, the necessary coordinates are established to silence everyone.

From the peasants’ movement, the workers’ movement and the commune movement, organisations are born which begin to silence everyone, instead of understanding themselves as organisations of the popular struggle, which they must be, because that is their nature, their origin. And that’s where the revolution ends, it dies, because we became something like the third episode in a list of courtesans in which we are the last in line.

And the social movements that don’t sign up to the GPP, can they have a role within the revolution?

The GPP doesn’t exist, it is being constructed, the social movements, yes is the answer. But the situation is actually the reverse; can the GPP survive without those social movements?

Note from the interviewers: We are convinced that criticism and self-criticism are necessary for the advance of the revolution. It is within this spirit that this interview has been carried out. WE DO NOT AUTHORISE ANY BOURGEOIS, CAPITALIST, RIGHTWING MEDIA CHANNEL TO REPRODUCE THIS INFORMATION, IN ITS ENTIRETY OR PARTIALLY.

 Translation by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuelanalysis