In Venezuela the forces of the counterrevolution are engaged in an
all-out offensive against Chavez and the Revolution. Right-wing
students stage armed provocations on the campuses and the streets. The
bourgeois media, nationally and internationally, are whipping up a
campaign of hysteria against "tyranny" and "dictatorship". US
imperialism, with the help of Juan Carlos and the Spanish bourgeoisie,
is striving to isolate Venezuela and create an anti-revolutionary bloc
in Latin America, based on Brazil and Colombia, Chile and Argentina.
As on previous occasions – the coup of 2002, the bosses’ lockout, the
recall referendum and the elections of 2005 and 2006, the reactionaries
are using the slogan of supposed "defence of democracy" as a means of
mobilizing the counterrevolutionary forces, creating a climate of fear
and instability in order to prepare the ground for a right-wing coup.
In the present battle who is opposed to the reform of the Constitution?
Fedecamaras, that is, the landlords, bankers and capitalists, the
Episcopal Conference, representing the reactionary hierarchy of the
Church, the right-wing media and imperialism. On the other side of the
barricades are the workers and peasants, the poor and dispossessed, the
revolutionary youth and the progressive intelligentsia: in other words,
all the living forces of Venezuelan society.
Why does the ruling class hate the constitutional reform? They say it
is because Chavez wishes to introduce a dictatorship, to be a President
elected for life and so on. But the reformed constitution does not
concede such powers or anything like them. It merely removes the
restriction on standing for President more than twice. In Europe there
is no such limitation. Sarkozy and Merkel can stand as often as they
like. So can Gordon Brown. And in any case, the reformed constitution
only allows Chavez to stand for election. It will be up to the people
whether they elect him or not.
This should be the normal procedure for electing a head of state in a
democracy. In Britain, which is supposed to be a democracy, we have a
hereditary head of state who was never elected and never will be. The
same is true in Spain where Juan Carlos, who permits himself the luxury
of telling the elected President of Venezuela to "shut up", has never
been elected by anyone but was appointed by the fascist dictator
Franco. Who elected the Venezuelan Episcopate? Who elected the editors
of the right-wing newspapers? Who elected the business leaders? Not the
people of Venezuela, who voted massively for Hugo Chavez less than one
year ago, and will undoubtedly vote for him again in the referendum in
a few weeks time.
The reformed constitution is therefore not a recipe for dictatorship
but contains many points in the interest of the masses. It contains the
36-hour working week, which is one reason why Fedecameras does not like
it. Nor do the bosses like the clauses that make it easier to
nationalize their banks, estates and factories. They do not like the
idea of the formation of Bolivarian militias or workers’ councils in
the workplaces. They do not like the commitment to building a socialist
economy in Venezuela. That is why they are fighting against the reform,
for a "No" vote in December. That is why the working class must fight
with even greater determination for a "Yes" vote.
A Constitution, even the most democratic constitution, is only a scrap
of paper. It means nothing unless it is put into practice. And this
depends on the class balance of forces: the willingness of the masses
to fight. The end result of the Revolution will not be decided in
lawyer’s studies or parliamentary meetings, but on the streets, in the
factories, in the villages and in the army barracks.
It goes without saying that the struggle for socialism will not end
with the referendum. But the referendum is one more in a series of
partial battles, the result of which can influence the struggles of the
masses in a positive or negative sense. As the masses push forward
towards a socialist transformation, the counterrevolutionaries become
ever more desperate and aggressive. The Revolution must meet the threat
head on. The only way to disarm the counterrevolutionaries is by taking
firm steps in the direction of completing the Revolution. The first
step is to achieve a massive "Yes" vote in the referendum. This will
deal a heavy blow against the counterrevolution, and open the way to
further measures against the oligarchy.
There are those on the Left who refuse to see this as a struggle
between the classes and who advocate abstention or even a "No" vote.
This is a fatal position. It is necessary to understand that a victory
for the "No" vote would be a victory for the counterrevolutionary
opposition. It would dishearten the masses and encourage the opposition
to intensify their counterrevolutionary agitation and conspiracies. If
there are some people who consider themselves revolutionaries and even
"Marxists" who do not understand this elementary fact, one can only
feel sorry for them.
The declarations of General Raúl Isaías Baduel on 5 November were a key
part of this counterrevolutionary offensive. Until his retirement last
July, Baduel was Defence Minister and apparently an ally of Hugo
Chávez. Now Baduel has come out against the President. In a news
conference, he described the President’s proposed changes to the
Constitution as "in effect a coup d’état" and a "non-democratic
imposition that would put us into tragic retreat." This attack was
clearly intended to cause a split in the ranks of the Bolivarian
Movement and promote a "No" vote in the referendum on the
constitutional changes scheduled for Dec. 2.
How can we prevent the Venezuelan Revolution from going down the path
of Chile? The Marxists say: only by carrying the Revolution forward, by
striking blows against the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, by
expropriating the bankers, landlords and capitalists and making the
Revolution irreversible. In order to do this it will be necessary to
arm the workers and peasants to fight against the counterrevolutionary
forces both inside and outside the country.
That is what we say. But there are other voices saying quite different
things. One of the most persistent of these voices is that of Heinz
Dieterich, a German professor living in Mexico, who in recent years has
been waging a noisy campaign in favour of what he calls "Socialism of
the XXI Century" - a kind of socialism that differs very little from
capitalism. Heinz Dieterich has been consistently opposed to
expropriations and workers’ control. He is against touching the
property of the bankers, landowners and capitalists. And naturally he
is opposed to touching the bourgeois state and the army.
It is not a coincidence that General Baduel wrote the Preface to Heinz
Dieterich’s book on "Socialism of the XXI Century" (Hugo Chávez y el
Socialismo del SXXI) and helped to launch it in Venezuela. One can say
that Heinz Dieterich cannot be held responsible for the views and
actions of Baduel. But what was his reaction to the General’s
statements? Was it to distance himself from Baduel? Did he repudiate
what Baduel was saying? Not at all.
On 8 November, Rebelion published an article by Heinz Dieterich
entitled "The Chavez-Baduel Break: Stop the Collapse of the Popular
Project". We republish it here in its entirety so that our readers can
judge for themselves, and so that there can be no suggestion that we
are misquoting the words of comrade Dieterich, which can be found at http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=58708
Let comrade Dieterich speak for himself. Here is the full text of the article:
1) What is at stake
The public announcement
of former General in Chief and Venezuelan Defence Minister Raul Isaias
Baduel, that he would vote against the constitutional reform proposed
by President Hugo Chavez and endorsed by the National Assembly, has
shaken the national order that seemed stable. At the same time, it has
opened a phase of uncertainty which could have serious consequences for
the Venezuelan popular project and the Bolivarian integration of Latin
America. Understanding the objective causes, consequences and possible
solutions to this conflict is thus essential to avoid a triumph of the
oligarchy and imperialism.
Despite having had a personal relationship of appreciation for both
characters for many years, I will not make a defence of either of the
two protagonists, but a rational analysis, which seeks to contribute to
a progressive solution of a grave situation. A key variable for
understanding the conflict is the personality of both these military
men, but this is not the time to introduce that variable in the
2) The causes of the conflict
The accusations that Baduel has sold out to the extreme right, that his
anti-communism has got the better of him, or that he is a traitor, do
not get to the heart of the problem. Ever since he was commander of the
42 Infantry Parachute Brigade, there have been many attempts to bribe
him and several plots to assassinate him and he did not give in. He is
a man who acts on conviction, not expediency, and that is why he
confronted the coup of April 11, although the putschists tried to bribe
him to work with them. And the fact that he did not participate on
February 4 and November 27 has an explanation, which the leaders
involved know and one day will be made public.
The assertion that he excluded himself from the Bolivarian project of
the President, by positioning himself against reform on November 5, is
the key to understanding the current situation. Baduel was unable to
accept the government project because he was already excluded. He was
marginalized, and the primary responsibility for this marginalization
was that of the government.
3) The model of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus
When he left the Defence Ministry in July 2007, the General stated that
he was going to withdraw from public life for a time, to work on his
farm and ponder his future as a public figure, like the consul Lucius
Quinctius Cincinnatus in Rome 2500 years ago. On Monday, November 5,
this meditative phase ended with his dramatic eruption into the public
debate on constitutional reform.
There are, however, two fundamental differences with the historical
model: a) the General was not convened by the State forces to "save
Rome," but volunteered motu proprio, on his own initiative, and b) he
chose the time and place so as to ensure the maximum impact and
surprise in order to launch his future political career. Part of the
impact was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he had publicly
supported the constitutional reform.
However, those observers are quite right who noted that Baduel had
shown unmistakable signs of public concern at the evolution of the
Bolivarian project that he saw: such as the scant will to fight against
corruption, the inflationary development of the economy, the
discretional use of the revenues from PdVSA and the lack of definition
of the institutionality of Socialism of the XXI Century.
4) The offensive of the General seeks to occupy the political centre of the country
The field of political battle chosen by the General was constitutional
reform and the time, the start of the official campaign for the Yes
vote and the violent protests on the right. Raul Baduel is an
extraordinary military man with strategic vision which explains the
content and timing of his public statement. Contrary to what the
official propaganda and sectarianism say, he is not a man of the
extreme right, which by definition is extra-constitutional, but a man
of the Law. His pronouncement in favour of the Constitution of 1999,
against the excessive concentration of power in the executive branch,
is the kind of speech that aims to occupy the political centre of the
Lacking a national organization and adequate funding to launch a
national political campaign, the General transformed the growing
controversy about the content and procedures for constitutional reform
into the equivalent of what is in military terms the strategic reserve
of a belligerent: a pre-organized force in stand-by for any offensive
or defensive purposes. In the dramatic situation on Monday, after the
demonstrations for and against the reform, a statement of the kind that
he made, would give him an immediate global media forum, and within
Venezuela, leadership of the political centre, which the country now
does not have.
5) The break with the President and the decisive battle
The statement by the General does signify, of course, an open break
with the President and the Bolivarian project, which the chief of state
has been shaping from 2003 to date. The timing may seem brutal, because
it launches a "war" with no quarter, in the style of Bolivar. The
immediate withdrawal of the bodyguards of the General and his family by
the Ministry of Defence, at the end of the press conference, is one
example of this situation. But it is obvious that Baduel considered all
the bridges were burnt and that, in going on the offensive, he decided
that maximum force had to be used.
The intervention of the General amounts to a decisive battle, because
if the President does not win the referendum, or if he does not win at
least 60 percent of the votes, he would be forced to call new
elections. That is, the call for a "no" vote is much more than a simple
electoral issue or a debate on the constitutional prerogatives of the
state and people: it is, for now, the decisive battle on the kind of
country created by the President in the last four years from the
proclamation of "Venezuelan socialism" to the fundamental changes that
he is trying to introduce to the Constitution of 1999.
6) Venezuela is entering a phase of uncertainty
There is no doubt that the intervention of the General has caused two
important effects: a) has reinforced all the forces of the "No" vote,
from the radicals to moderates; this is a historic responsibility of
enormous dimensions that undoubtedly will weigh on the conscience of
General until the end of his life, and b) has ruled out abstention as
However, it is difficult to predict accurately the consequences. Raul
Baduel has undoubtedly lost the great support that he had within the
ranks of hard-line "Chavismo". We will have to see if the support he
wins among the Centre and disappointed Bolivarians can compensate for
this loss of political capital. On the part of the President, it
remains to be seen if he can mobilize electoral forces which were
previously undecided or inert in his favour.
Within this calculation it is necessary to remember that one of the
characteristics of Venezuelan politics is that from 1999 onwards, the
government has failed to reduce the opposition bloc, which has a hard
core of around 35 to 40 per cent of the population, which is a fairly
high platform for any government to jump in a crisis.
7) The way out: a strategic alliance between Chavez and Baduel
The danger of defeat, absolute or relative, of the "yes" vote, opens
once again a chronically chaotic phase in Venezuela that in a few years
could finish the government of Hugo Chavez. And if Chavez leaves the
Miraflores Palace, the integration of South America could be halted.
That is what is at stake.
To avoid this uncertain future and prevent the right and imperialism
from taking power in Venezuela, it will be necessary for Chavez and
Baduel to reach a negotiated settlement that is based on a strategic
alliance between the country’s political centre and Bolivarianism. It
would be convenient to stop seeing the new constitution as a sacred cow
and see it for what it is: a legal modus vivendi built on the
correlation of forces in a given historic moment. Otherwise, we run the
risk of paying the political price being paid by Evo Morales in
Bolivia, as a result of the Constituent Assembly.
It is obvious that the new Constitution is not necessary to advance the
anti-imperialist and popular Bolivarian process headed by the President
at the national and international levels, nor is it necessary to
progress towards Socialism of the XXI Century. And it is equally
obvious that the current model has a number of structural weaknesses,
which can cause crises in the coming year, particularly in the economy
and the absence of dialectic in the organs leading the country.
In the light of what is at stake for the people of Venezuela and the
peoples of Latin American, a strategic compact between the two forces
is not only necessary to protect the process, but also, to go back to
the original collective democratic spirit of the Samán del Guere.
Anyone who thinks that this is impossible after the declaration of Raul
Isaias Baduel is forgetting the conflict between Lieutenant Colonel
Arias Cardenas of the MBR-200 and President Hugo Chavez.
In the year 2002 Arias Cardenas said literally during a live program on
RCTV that Chavez was a "murderer", a "sick person", paranoid" and that
the "leader of this band of criminals" was is in government. Years
later he was appointed by the President as Ambassador of the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations and is now the head of the
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the most powerful state
in the country, Zulia..
Politics is the art of possible alliances and, in light of what is at
stake, the inescapable historic responsibility of these two former
comrades in arms, Hugo Chavez and Raul Isaias Baduel, is to resolve the
current political (and future economic) crisis, so that the oligarchy
and imperialism cannot win another strategic victory in the Patria
What does it mean?
What is the meaning of this? In the first place let us note that
Dieterich does not criticize the substance of Baduel’s speech, let
alone repudiate it. On the contrary, he assumes the role of a Witness
for the Defence. In the first part he states that Baduel "has shaken
the national order that seemed stable". We do not know what country
comrade Dieterich is talking about, but it cannot be Venezuela. The
"national order" there is not stable at all and has not been stable for
In Venezuela there is a fierce class struggle taking place. The masses
are striving for a fundamental change in society, that is, they are
striving for socialist revolution, while a handful of wealthy
parasites, the oligarchy, is clinging to its wealth, power and
privileges. In order to do this, the oligarchy is prepared to go to any
length, mobilizing mobs on the streets to stir up violence and chaos,
engaging in economic sabotage, organizing conspiracies to overthrow the
democratically elected government, intriguing with foreign powers. If
this is what comrade Dieterich calls "stability", we would like to know
what instability is.
The frenzied hatred of Chávez and the desire to get rid of him at all
costs is, at bottom, class hatred. The bourgeoisie and the imperialists
know that behind the Bolivarian leader stand the Venezuelan masses: the
workers, the peasants, the poor and oppressed, who have been aroused by
the Bolivarian Revolution and are challenging private property and the
"sacred rights" of management. The masses are learning from their
experience and pushing the revolution forward in the direction of the
expropriation of the landlords and capitalists. That is the real fear
of the ruling class. That is the reason they are squealing about
"tyranny" and "dictatorship".
The 1999 Constitution limits presidents to two six-year terms, and
would end Chávez’s presidency in 2012. That is the main aim of the
opposition and the pro-bourgeois wing of the Bolivarian Movement: to
get rid of Chávez as soon as possible. They calculate that without him,
the movement would dissipate and fracture. What they really object to
in the 69 amendments is that they include measures in favour of the
masses and against the oligarchy. They include a six-hour working day
and more expropriations. This implies a further movement in an
anti-capitalist direction. This is intolerable, not only to the
Venezuelan oligarchy and its friends in Washington but also to those
sections of the Bolivarian Movement who are opposed to the socialist
The main danger to the Revolution, as we have said many times, is not
so much the enemy without but the enemy within: the agents of the
counterrevolution inside the Bolivarian Movement: the bourgeois Fifth
Column: those "Bolivarians" who wear a red shirt but who secretly are
opposed to socialism, who fear the masses and are flirting with the
opposition. These people want to halt the revolution and arrive at a
compromise with the counterrevolutionary opposition.
The new charter would allow Chávez to be re-elected and would cut down
the influence of governors and mayors. The reason is that many of the
latter cannot be trusted. Baduel is not an isolated case. Other
supposed supporters of Chávez have also broken with him, including
Ismael García of the Podemos party, which has now gone over to the
This should not surprise us. The polarization between the classes,
between workers and capitalists, peasants and landowners, poor and
rich, is being reflected in an inner differentiation within the
Bolivarian Movement. A section of the leaders, alarmed at the rising
revolutionary movement and utterly opposed to socialism, is moving
rapidly to the right, towards the counterrevolution, while the masses
and the Bolivarian rank and file are moving even more rapidly to the
left, in the direction of socialist revolution.
The masses have rallied to Chávez, who they see as representing their
interests. Yet again Chávez showed that he was able to mobilize
supporters in a mass demonstration in favour of socialism and a new
constitution. Yet again the streets of Caracas were flooded with
workers and youth in red shirts. At the rally, the President correctly
described student leaders as "rich bourgeois brats" and also attacked
the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for its role. These
sentiments were enthusiastically applauded by the demonstrators. The
masses are in no mood to passively accept the aggression of the
counterrevolution. This is the answer to all those who argue that the
revolution is finished, that the masses have no will to fight, the
balance of forces is unfavourable and we must compromise with the
Whose interests does Baduel stand for?
Lenin explained that the state, in the last analysis, is armed bodies
of men. The army is the key question in the Venezuelan Revolution.
While it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the rank and file
soldiers support the Revolution, the situation in the top ranks is not
so clear. Many officers are loyal to the President, but this is not
true of everyone, as Baduel has shown. He was supposed to be a loyal
Chavista. But Pinochet was also supposed to be a democrat and loyal
supporter of Allende – until the 11th September 1973.
What effect might Baduel have within the armed forces? It is impossible
to say. But it is known that there has been an intense internal
discussion in the army. The army – any army – is only the mirror of
society in general. How many Baduels remain in the upper echelons,
waiting for their moment to act? The only way to deal with this problem
and disarm the counterrevolutionary elements before they are able to
turn their weapons against the Revolution is that the Revolution must
penetrate the armed forces.
In his speech, Baduel chose his words carefully. He used the word
"coup," as a deliberate provocation. It is the opposition, not the
President, who are trying to prepare the ground for a coup. But, as
Churchill used to say, attack is the best form of defence. Cilia
Flores, president of the National Assembly, said of Baduel: "He is a
traitor and the people here disown traitors". That is well said. This
is a very serious matter. The intention is to provoke the maximum chaos
and prepare the way for a military coup. José Vicente Rangel, the
former vice president, warned over the weekend that he had intelligence
that some in the political opposition were paving the way for a coup.
We do not doubt it.
It is in the interest of the counterrevolution to cause the maximum
chaos and instability. So whose interests is Baduel defending when he
attacks Chavez? Dieterich continues:
"At the same time, it has opened a phase of uncertainty
which could have serious consequences for the Venezuelan popular
project and the Bolivarian integration of Latin America."
Indeed it could! And that was precisely Baduel’s intention. He is
openly playing the card of the counterrevolution. He is hoping to play
the role of Bonaparte and the gravedigger of the Revolution. One has to
be blind not to understand this. But as the proverb says, there is none
so blind as they who do not want to see.
How Dieterich poses the question
Heinz Dieterich tells us that "understanding the objective causes,
consequences and possible solutions to this conflict is thus essential
to avoid a triumph of the oligarchy and imperialism". So what are these
"objective causes"? Dieterich modestly informs us that he has "had a
personal relationship of appreciation for both characters for many
years". Heinz always likes to tell people that he is close to so-and-so
and that he has met so-and-so. This is intended to give him a special
authority and insight into affairs of state. He claims the right not
only to tell us "what Chavez really means", but even to tell Chavez
himself what he really means.
Unfortunately, he now finds himself in difficulties, since Baduel and
Chavez are now in a head-on confrontation. How does Heinz get out of
this little difficulty? Despite his friendship with both men, he "will
not make a defence of either of the two protagonists, but a rational
analysis, which seeks to contribute to a progressive solution of a
The Sybill in ancient Greece made mysterious utterances that nobody can
understand. The priests then interpreted these utterances for the
ignorant public. We would require the services of such a priest to
answer a very simple question: in the conflict between Chavez and
Baduel, where does Heinz Dieterich stand? He stands in the middle. He
tries to act as an arbiter between them, and in the process he places
himself above both – since the referee always decides in the case of a
conflict and the referee’s decision is final.
A trivial explanation
Pursuing his role as a Sybill-referee, Heinz informs us:
"A key variable for understanding the conflict is the
personality of both these military men, but this is not the time to
introduce that variable in the analysis."
This is classic Heinz Dieterich. It means: "I know these two men better
than you. I know them better than anybody. In fact, I know them better
than they know themselves. I also know that this is, at bottom, only a
conflict of personalities. But I will not tell you how or why I know
this, because then you would know as much as I do!"
Only a superficial mind seeks to interpret major political events in
terms of personalities. This is a trivial approach to history and
politics. It is on the level of sentimental novels and gossip
journalism. It explains nothing at all. If Chavez and Baduel’s
personalities are different now, they were also different five or ten
years ago. Why did the clash not occur then instead of now?
In reality, the conflict between Chavez and Baduel is at bottom a class
question. Personal and psychological elements played at best a
secondary role. These men do not act in a social vacuum. Baduel
reflects the ideas, the interests and the psychology of the
bourgeoisie, while Chavez is expressing the aspirations, interests and
psychology of the mass of poor and oppressed people. That is why
immediately Baduel was received as a hero and Saviour by the
bourgeoisie and the media nationally and internationally, while Chavez
received the support of the workers and peasants. Again, only a blind
man cannot understand this.
Now we come to the causes of the conflict. Heinz informs us:
"The accusations that Baduel has sold out to the extreme
right, that his anti-communism has got the better of him, or that he is
a traitor, do not get to the heart of the problem."
This is a very strange formulation indeed! Either Baduel has sold out
to the right and is a traitor, or he has not and is not. What does
comrade Dieterich think? We do not know. He does not say. All he says
is that these accusations "do not get to the heart of the problem."
What kind of statement is this? It is the kind of lawyer’s
circumlocution and sophistry that is not supposed to explain but only
to distract ones’ attention.
Dieterich defends Baduel
Dieterich is very anxious to present his friend in the most favourable
light. We are informed: "He [Baduel] is a man who acts on conviction,
not expediency." These words amount to a defence of the General who is
attacking the Revolution and supporting the counterrevolutionary
opposition. Even if we accept what Dieterich says, that Baduel only
acted from conviction, that would be no justification. A
counterrevolutionary who acts on conviction, not expediency is more
dangerous than an enemy who is guided by short-term personal
He reminds us that he "confronted the coup of April 11 " and
informs us that the fact that he did not participate in Chavez’s
attempted coup in 1992 "has an explanation, which the leaders involved
know and one day will be made public". Yet again he puts on the cloak
of Sybill and hints that he (Heinz Dieterich) knows many secret things
about which we are ignorant and about which he cannot speak. This is a
very interesting argument. It is like a man who is asked to pay the
rent at the end of the month saying: I know a secret formula that will
enable me to win the lottery, but I cannot speak of it now. This may
impress some people, but it will not convince the landlord or prevent
him from throwing his insolvent lodger, together with his secret
formulas, onto the street.
Why did Baduel oppose the reform on November 5? Baduel was unable to
accept the government project because he was already excluded,
Dieterich tells us: "He was marginalized, and the primary
responsibility for this marginalization was that of the government". So
there we have it! The fault for this situation is not Baduel’s because
the poor man was "already excluded". Whose fault was it, then? Why, the
government and the President, of course! What does this signify? In the
present conflict, which, as we have already explained, is a class
conflict, a clash between the forces of revolution and
counterrevolution, Dieterich stands with the latter against the former.
And no amount of sophistry and ambiguity can conceal this fact.
The line of argument used by Dieterich here is absolutely typical: it
is lawyer’s sophistry. Let us draw an analogy that will make this
clear. A man is accused of burning down his neighbour’s house with
everyone inside it. He goes to trial and his defence lawyer is a friend
who has known him for many years. Does his friend plead not guilty? No,
he cannot do this, because the house was burnt down in daylight and
everybody saw who did it. The case being hopeless, the lawyer resorts
to trickery to save his friend. What arguments does he use? He does not
deny the accusation (because he cannot) but argues that the accusation
"does not get to the heart of the problem."
Having thus begun to confuse the jury and draw its attention away from
the central accusation, he then continues to create a smoke screen of
1) I have known the accused for many years and he is a very nice man.
2) The accused only acts out of conviction. He only burned the house
out of conviction. In fact, he always burns down houses out of
3) The house was very ugly and deserved to be burnt anyway.
4) The neighbours stopped inviting him to dinner and this made him
feel marginalized. Therefore, the neighbours were responsible for his
actions and deserved to be burned.
When this lawyer’s rhetoric is stripped of its embellishment, its
dishonesty is clear to any normally intelligent person. The lawyer does
not deny that his client is guilty as charged. But he defends him as a
person and tries to present his criminal actions in the best possible
light. He then proceeds to justify the crime itself and to make the
victims of the crime appear the aggressors and the criminal look like
the real victim. If the lawyer is sufficiently skilful, he can
sometimes succeed in persuading a jury to release the criminal, who
then immediately proceeds to burn down more houses.
A "sincere" counterrevolutionary
Heinz Dieterich, as we have seen, does not deny that Baduel has gone
over to the counterrevolutionary opposition. He cannot deny this
because everyone in Venezuela knows that it is true. He therefore
attempts to justify his actions, presenting his counterrevolutionary
speech as the action of a true democrat and patriot. He says he acts
only out of conviction, not from bribery or other base motives.
Since we have not been present at the meetings between the General and
the opposition and have no access to his bank account, we have no means
of knowing whether this is true or false. However, let us note that
Dieterich contradicts himself when he writes: "Part of the impact [of
Baduel’s statement] was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he
had publicly supported the constitutional reform."(my emphasis, AW) How
does a "man of conviction" change his convictions about the
Constitution in the space of 18 days? Evidently, the General’s
convictions resemble those of the politician who said: "All right, if
you don’t like my principles I’ll change them!"
Even if we accept that he has acted only out of conviction, this
argument counts for nothing. Many of the greatest villains in history
have acted out of conviction. The mad emperor Nero no doubt acted out
of conviction when he burned Rome and blamed the Christians. Adolf
Hitler always acted on the basis of very deep convictions – convictions
of racial superiority and fascism. Both Tony Blair and George Bush are
said to be motivated by deep convictions – imperialist convictions that
they have a god-given right to rule the world. To justify his support
for the criminal invasion of Iraq Blair told the British people: "I did
what I did because I believed sincerely it was right". Does this make
the crimes of these men any less atrocious – because they were sincere
and "acted from conviction"?
Many of the Venezuelan opposition are deeply convinced that Chavez is a
dangerous revolutionary, a threat to the existing social order who must
be overthrown and even killed to save the Fatherland. Oh yes, they
believe this quite sincerely. And from their class point of view they
are correct. They are acting from conviction. The counterrevolutionary
opposition sincerely defends the standpoint of the landlords, bankers
and capitalists. Baduel sincerely defends the counterrevolutionary
opposition. And Dieterich sincerely (we assume) defends Baduel.
However, we are not interested in whether they are sincere or not, but
what interests they defend.
The only way we can judge the actions of Baduel is not from the
standpoint of personal sincerity but from a class point of view. For
our part, we sincerely defend the standpoint of socialism and the
working class. We defend President Chavez against the attacks of the
counterrevolution. Not to do so in this situation would be a betrayal.
And it is also the only way we can interpret the actions of those who
use lawyer’s sophistry to defend him. If an arsonist is allowed to
escape justice because of the arguments of clever lawyers, he will be
free to burn houses. If a counterrevolutionary is tolerated, he will
engage in counterrevolutionary conspiracies that threaten the lives of
many more people than a single arsonist.
In our opinion the Bolivarian Revolution has already been far too
lenient with the counterrevolutionaries. How many of the golpistas of
April 2002 are in prison? Until recently, not one, as far as we know.
This is a serious mistake and the Revolution will pay a heavy price for
Venezuela: counterrevolution raises its head – Heinz Dieterich and General Baduel – Part Two (November 20, 2007)
The challenges facing the Venezuelan Revolution, by Jorge Martin (September 5, 2007)
Venezuelan nationalisations – What do they mean for socialists? by Alan Woods (May 18, 2007)