Roland Denis, graduate in Philosophy from the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, former Vice-minister of Planning and Development under Hugo Chávez, public figure in the 13th of April movement and Our America, has become one of the most derisive figures for the revolution throughout these past 12 years of Chavismo. Originally from a bourgeois family, he broke with his class during his adolescence in order to dedicate himself to revolutionary militancy. Author of The Makers of the Rebellion (2001) and another book which he presented this week in Buenos Aires: The Three Republics – Portrait of a Transition Towards Another Kind of Politics. The bitterness that he usually causes within the Chavista bureaucracy is inversely proportional to the irreducible image of the rebel within the Bolivarian revolution, who presents a different type of theoretical politics and debate to that of the existing regime. Fortunately he is not alone, although he is the most well known. His role in Venezuela evokes a controversial character described by Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase “the terrible child” (L’enfant terrible) in 1971.
Venezuela is currently entering the most dangerous electoral test for Chavismo so far. The president will be elected in October (of next year), governors in December and then a couple of months later, mayors and the city council. What could happen?
RD. Well, I think that everything is going to revolve around the figure of Chavez, and that he is doubtlessly going to win, all indicators point towards that outcome. He currently has 58% support in the opinion polls. But the situation is not easy for Chavismo, there is too much malaise.
Do you still think he will win, why?
RD. What’s happening is that the figure of Chavez is undefeatable in terms of what we are talking about, in leadership, in the current context of the country. The Venezuelan rightwing helps because it is very decadent, linked to extremely dark circles. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie has been sterilised politically speaking, it’s been left with no historical breath or a project for the country. It is an unburied corpse that we need to bury.
The cancer that President Chavez is suffering from, could it function as an electoral or political determinant?
RD. Look, yes it is a key factor when Roger Noriega is wandering round announcing his (Chavez’s) death within a few months. That is what they want, and their interests to implant the beginnings of a destabilisation project. In reality, it’s very difficult to know, nobody knows the exact level of danger. He says that they cured him and I believe him when he says it, we have seen him being active. Everything depends on the type of cancer he has and which organ the cancer is in. Until the government clarifies all this, we can’t be certain of anything.
What has happened to the millions of “frozen” Chavista votes since the end of 2007?
RD. They continue to be disillusioned; their disillusion has perhaps even grown. A good part of Chavez’s foreign policy is alienating them, the type of relationship that he has with Santos, the legitimisation of the Lobos government in Honduras and the OAS, the handing over or capturing of the Colombian guerrillas and those of ETA in Venezuela; the criminalisation of labour and social protests, the gross administrative inefficiency of the government, the risky concessions being made to multinationals, the collapse of the project to implement a non-capitalist economy. Did you know that the private economic sphere has grown more than that of the state and workers’ controlled economy combined? This disappointment could be even greater if they dared to apply the Law of Transition, that would allow a pact between the government and the bourgeoisie. In terms of Chavez not being in power, millions of Chavistas would reject it. Foreign policy is currently beginning to converge with national policy.
You are referring to the change of direction at the heart of the Venezuelan government in terms of continental geopolitics?
Could the scenario where Chavez wins, but Chavismo loses its majority in the governorships and mayoralties be a possibility? Producing a situation similar to that of Allende (Chilean president elected in 1970), a president who has no territorial power?
RD. That is what is going to happen, it’s highly probable. This year, a slogan appeared within the popular movement, “Long live Chavez, down with the government”. The rejection of state functionaries, of inefficiency, corruption, lies and dual conduct, as well as the riding roughshod over social activists, is enormous. Government functionaries maintain an ultra-leftist discourse whilst maintaining right-wing practices.
Will the Great Patriotic Pole counteract this malaise?
It is a definite fact that the Great Patriotic Pole is propelling organisation within many movements. This revival is occurring because the GPP is displacing the PSUV a little bit at the centre of the (electoral) campaign and is opening up the participation of grassroots movements. But this could result in exploitation if the movements do not manage to develop their own politics, independent of the bureaucracy’s management of the campaign.
After the election of Chavez in October, what are they going to do? Are they going to let themselves be used as electoral instruments by the very people who have been rejected by those same movements, so that they can entrench themselves within government and mayoral positions? The problem is still there, because it doesn’t depend on this election, it is at the very heart of the regime, in its institutions and in the diversion of the revolutionary project. Creating the PSUV was an error, look; they are going to vote for Chavez, with or without the PSUV. But that kind of electoral machinery is almost killing the energy of the revolutionary Bolivarian movement, it corrupted thousands of leaders, it worked to win elections, but it also produced painful defeats.
People haven’t been sacrificing their lives for the past 12 years just for another election, the poor people got involved in this to carry out a social revolution, to change everything that was bad, to overcome it. An old Bolivarian General on the left, Rojas Muller, accused the PSUV leadership of being a “scorpion’s nest”; he was the second in command of the PSUV, so he knew it quite well. The party managed to obtain a membership of 7.5 million Chavistas in 2007, but the Great Patriotic Polo only has 3 million members. The PSUV and the state have ended up in a perverse symbiosis, which is extremely damaging for the revolution. At any point, these deviations and contradictions could lead to a crisis. That is where we are at the moment. This crisis is traversing this electoral process. Today, the Great Patriotic Pole is the defensive response to this crisis within Chavismo’s political model.
Why did you say to the newspaper Ultimas Noticias, that has the highest circulation in Venezuela, that the “Bolivarian revolution is increasingly further away from the Miraflores (Palace) and closer to the barrios, the factories and the countryside”?
RD. Because that is the incredible thing about our revolution, that in spite of these serious perversions and contradictions, the creation of a new rich sector in society, and the existence of a rightwing within the government, even in spite of all the serious errors that have been made within our foreign policy, such as the handing over of refugee fighters in Venezuela to murderous governments, the search to adopt a moderate position within the UNASUR and CELAC; the social movements and grassroots movements, the oppressed and the exploited who are organised in various ways, are renewing their forces and energy from below. So that they can tackle this perversion and save the revolutionary project that we began more than 12 years ago, that project for social revolution that obtained continuity in Chavez’ conduct and through many of his policies, but that is now undergoing a diversion and at risk of dying out.
Translated by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuelanalysis