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." [my
We have not the
slightest doubt that Baduel and the entire rightwing of the Bolivarian Movement
were concerned about the evolution of the Bolivarian project. Why were they
concerned? They were concerned because the Revolution was beginning to go
beyond the limits of capitalism and threaten the wealth and property of the
oligarchy. They were concerned about the nationalizations and the non-renewal
of the licence of RCTV – that nest of counterrevolutionary agitation and
nerve-centre of the golpistas.
They were also
concerned about corruption, but not for the reasons Heinz Dieterich gives.
Everybody knows that Chavez is personally incorruptible but that he is
surrounded by a layer of corrupt bureaucrats and careerists who are sabotaging
the Revolution from within. These elements are the Fifth Column of the
counterrevolution and are far more dangerous than the open
They complain about
"the discretional use of the revenues from PdVSA". What a joke! As if the
revenues of PdVSA were not always used for political ends! The only
difference is that in the past the vast resources of PdVSA were used for the
benefit of the oligarchy, its friends and political servants. Now these
resources are no longer controlled by the bourgeois and they do not like it.
Their protests about corruption stink of hypocrisy.
It is quite true
that there are bureaucrats in PdVSA – and not only in PdVSA – who need to be
purged. But how is this to be done? It is necessary to take a big broom and
sweep out all these corrupt "Bolivarian" officials and create a new state that
is fit to carry out the socialist transformation of society. This can only done
by the active involvement of the masses, the workers and peasants, in the
running of industry, society and the state.
What is needed is
the expropriation of the oligarchy and the dismantling of the old, corrupt bureaucratic
state machine. That is the only way to achieve a clear "definition of the
institutionality of Socialism of the XXI Century." Is that what Baduel and
Dieterich are proposing? No, it is not. They are vehemently opposed to this.
They are against nationalization and workers’ control. When they talk of
"Socialism of the XXI Century" they do not mean socialism at all, but only
capitalism under another name. That is why they are "concerned" at the
direction taken by the Bolivarian project. They are determined to halt the
Revolution in its tracks.
In fact, Baduel himself explained what his real concerns were at the
time of his parting speech as Minister of Defence. While he dressed his speech
in socialist phraseology, what he said is very clear. For instance, he declared
that, "socialism is about distributing wealth, but before you can
distribute wealth you have to create wealth" which is a typical argument
of reformists everywhere against socialism and nationalisation. He added that
"a regime of socialist production is not incompatible with a political
system which is profoundly democratic with counter-balances and divisions of
power," adding that "we must move away from Marxist orthodoxy
which says that democracy with division of powers is just an instrument of
bourgeois domination". He said, "yes, we must go towards socialism,
but this must be done without chaos and disorganisation". And
using a very strange analogy with Lenin’s New Economic Policy he said, "we
cannot allow our system to become a type of State Capitalism, where the state
is the only owner of the means of production". And added "war
communism in the Soviet Union taught us that you cannot implement sharp changes
in the economic system… the wholesale abolition of private property and the brutal
socialisation of the means of production always have a negative effect on the
production of goods and services and provoke general discontent amongst the
population". It is quite clear what he was saying. These incorrect
analogies with War Communism and the NEP in Russia are just a cover for what he
was really saying: "we should not go towards nationalisation of the
Some people at the time argued that Baduel’s speech was not a criticism
of Chávez, but rather, that he was just putting forward his view of "democratic
socialism" (that is, reforms within the limits of capitalism). These are by the
way, exactly the same ideas that Heinz Dieterich has been putting forward under
the name of "Socialism of the XXI Century", socialism without nationalisation
of the means of production, which is … capitalism! It is for this reason that
Baduel was so enthusiastic about Dieterich’s ideas and wrote the prologue of
the Venezuelan edition of his book "Hugo Chavez and Socialism of the XXI
century". In this prologue Baduel says very complimentary things about
Dieterich’s book: "I feel honoured, since I recognise in this work an immense
contribution to the building of the theory of the new non-capitalist society",
he adds that despite the appeal by the president to participate in the debate
about socialism "after a while, Heinz Dieterich’s contribution remains as an
almost unique and compulsory point of reference, due to the clarity and
simplicity of his ideas". Baduel was in fact, so impressed with Dieterich’s
ideas that he suggested that Chapter 7 of his book "should be published
separately for massive distribution in schools, universities, trade unions,
factories, hospitals, peasant communities, communal councils and in all those
spaces where we need to generate a debate and a healthy discussion about the
socialism that we want to build."
This has to be really embarrassing for Dieterich! The person who only a
few months ago was praising his ideas so much has now broken with the
Bolivarian project and joined the counterrevolution. Maybe this is the reason
why Dieterich is so keen to argue that Baduel is not really a
counterrevolutionary and that at the end of the day Chávez and Baduel should
make an alliance. But one could argue that Baduel’s ideas have changed and that
therefore Dieterich is not really responsible for his latest ideological
evolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. What attracted Baduel to
Dieterich was Dieterich’s idea that you can have "socialism" without
nationalising the means of production. This was a kind of "socialism" that
Baduel could live with. And this is what he explained in his parting speech on
July 23. What did he say in his speech on November 5? Exactly the same thing.
Let’s quote him at length:
"The reasoning for the constitutional reform, as it has been presented,
is to take the Venezuelan people towards a process of transition towards
something which is generically called "socialism", without clearly explaining
what is meant by this term. As I already said on another occasion when I
departed the Ministry of Defence, the word socialism does not have a uniform
meaning, and can include regimes like that of Pol Pot in Cambodia and the
Stalinist Soviet Union, as well as Nordic Socialism or European Democratic
Socialism. Which socialism are we being taken to? Why are the people not being
told clearly where the nation is being led to? As a people we must demand that
we are told clearly the destiny of our future and that we are not lied to with
a so-called Venezuelan socialism".
Baduel admits himself that his ideas have not changed! And Dieterich
himself described Baduel’s parting speech as a "great step forward for
Socialism of the 21 Century" (See: Hugo Chávez, Raúl Baduel, Raúl Castro and
the Regional Block of Power advance the socialism of the future" http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=54425)
The reason why Baduel is passing to the opposition is clear: he sees
that all the talk about socialism might actually mean socialism and he does not
agree with that. He was happy to accept socialism of the Dieterich variety
(i.e. social democracy), but he is completely opposed to genuine socialism.
Chávez explained this very well when he said:
"It is not strange that when a submarine goes deeper the pressure
is increased and can free a loose screw, the weak points are going to leave,
and I believe it is good that they leave".
We can only draw one conclusion, Dieterich’s ideas about his so-called
"Socialism of the 21" century, provide a cover for counterrevolutionaries who
are opposed to socialism.
Having begun by confusing the issue Dieterich
continues on the same track, only this time he takes us back 2,500 years, to
ancient Rome. Baduel, you see, is following the model of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus:
"When he left the
Defence Ministry in July 2007, 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."
Anyone who has read the books and articles of
Heinz Dieterich will know that he likes to quote all kinds of historical
analogies. This is intended to create an impression of great erudition and thus
place him in a position of unassailable intellectual authority. It also plays a
role analogous to that of a squid, which, when it wishes to distract an enemy,
squirts a large amount of ink. The amount of ink squirted by Heinz Dieterich
would distract all but the most persistent opponent. But since we are very
acquainted with this tactic it will not distract us. We are also aware that
Heinz’s historical analogies are frequently misleading.
Cinncinatus was a nobleman in the days of the
Roman Republic. Unlike our modern Venezuelan landowners, he worked fields with
his own hands. One day a messenger arrived to inform him that Rome was
being attacked. Like a good patriotic Roman citizen he dropped his plough
and went to the city to lead the army and city to victory.
In those far-off days a Roman Dictator was
elected for six months in times of national emergency, during which time he had
total control. At the end of his period of office, he gave up power and
went back to his farm. The Romans were very proud that their leader just
wanted to serve them. To this day citizens of the USA like to compare
George Washington to Cinncinatus. Washington also went back to his plough,
and returned to his farm at Mount Vernon, where, unlike the Roman general, he
did not work with his hands but relied on the services of his black slaves.
What has all this got to do with the case of
Baduel? It has nothing to do with it and has been dragged in by the hair, as
usual with Dieterich, to confuse the
issue. Baduel was Minister of Defence, which is an important office, but
hardly that of a dictator with total power. He was not called to power by the
universal acclamation of the people of Venezuela but appointed by President
Chavez, who has now decided to dispense with his services.
Baduel did not voluntarily relinquish power in
order to work the land with his hands. He was removed and left office unwillingly,
refusing to swear the oath of loyalty to Fatherland, Socialism or Death. This
was an act of political insubordination that clearly indicated the way the
General was thinking. He did not require time to reconsider his position,
whether planting potatoes or not. His mind was already made up. In fact, it was
already made up a long time ago.
Baduel was willing to follow Chavez as long as
the Bolivarian Revolution remained within the limits of private property and
capitalism. But the Revolution is moving beyond these limits and Baduel was
unable to stop it from within. A clash with the President was inevitable, and
once it came Baduel knew exactly what he had to do. The reason for the delay
had nothing to do with Cinncinatus, potatoes or meditation but only the
logistics of planning.
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."
Yes, every historical analogy holds good only within certain limits. But here it is false from start to finish.
The above passage is so peculiar that one scratches one’s head to find any
sense in it (this is a sensation one frequently experiences when reading
anything written by this author). Our modern Cinncinatus "was not convened by
the State forces to ‘save Rome,’" No indeed! The "State forces" sacked the
General precisely because he was a danger to "Rome" (that is,
Our Venezuelan Cincinnatus is now attacking
those very "State forces" publicly, and openly supporting the
counterrevolutionary opposition. This he is certainly
doing motu proprio, that is, on his own initiative, and he certainly
chose the right time and place "so as to ensure the maximum impact and surprise".
That is to say, he chose the right time and place to inflict the maximum
damage on the Bolivarian Revolution, the run-up to the December referendum.
This he is doing, as Dieterich is compelled to admit, not for the benefit of
the Republic, but "in order to launch his future political career". That is to
say, he is doing precisely the opposite of what Cinncinatus did. Yet
Heinz sees him as a heroic figure in the tradition of the Roman hero. This
tells us a lot of how Heinz understands ancient history – and modern politics.
candidate – for Bonapartism
Heinz Dieterich is a utopian reformist, an
academic who lives in a world of dreams yet (for some reason) considers himself
to be a supreme political realist. It would not be fair to describe him as a
counterrevolutionary. No, the Professor detests the counterrevolution and
wishes to avoid it. Nor would it be correct to describe him as a revolutionary,
since he also fears that the Revolution, which is being propelled forward by
the "untutored masses", will go too far (has already gone too far) and will
provoke (has already provoked) the counterrevolution. For Heinz all extremes are bad, and we must have
moderation in all things. Therefore, the answer is in the Centre.
Heinz Dieterich insists that the General has
not gone to the right. Where has he gone, then? He is now the candidate of the Centre, Heinz tells us. But what is the
Centre? In Venezuela there is no Centre, except in the fevered imagination of
Heinz Dieterich. In Venezuela there is a sharp polarization between left and
right – that is, a sharp polarization between the classes, which has now become
an unbridgeable gap. Everybody knows this. The opposition knows it, the masses
know it, Hugo Chávez knows it, Baduel knows it, the US State Department knows
it, a child of six knows it, and even George W Bush knows it. But Heinz
Dieterich does not know it. He intends to solve all the problems of the
Revolution by uniting everybody in the Centre and forming an alliance between
Chávez and Baduel.
This means uniting
revolution with counterrevolution, which is only a little more difficult
than uniting fire with water, turning lead into gold or squaring the circle.
However, our friend Heinz is not a man to be deterred by such small details.
Baduel, he tells us, is very intelligently positioning himself as candidate for
leader of the Centre. But the General has a small problem. The Centre does not exist. Having broken with the Bolivarian
Movement (where he was always on the right) he has no alternative but to go even further to the right.
Baduel has no alternative but to find common
cause with the opposition, with whom he has no real differences. Some of the
more stupid oppositionists will not want him. They see anybody remotely
connected with Chavismo as an enemy.
But the more intelligent ones who lead the opposition will welcome him with
open arms. More importantly, the US State Department, which pulls the strings
of the opposition, will certainly welcome him with open arms. This has a logic
of its own.
Baduel chose his
moment to secure the maximum impact on public opinion nationally and
internationally. Naturally, the mass media controlled by big business has given
him a lot of publicity, praising him as a hero. He is the hero of the hour –
for the counterrevolutionaries. He is putting himself forward as the future
Saviour of the Nation, a nation that has left the path of "democracy" and is
sliding towards chaos and anarchy. A firm hand is needed to save the Nation.
That means the hand of a General, and that General is called Baduel.
For anyone with the
slightest knowledge of history, this is the language of Bonapartism. The
real historical analogy for Baduel is not Cincinnatus but Napoleon Bonaparte
who rose to power over the dead body of the French Revolution. It was Bonaparte
who came to power on the slogan of national Unity and Order. That meant the
crushing of the revolutionary masses who under the Jacobins had "gone too far".
It means the deposing and murder of Robespierre and the other revolutionary leaders
and a White Terror against their followers. It meant the restoration of rank
and privilege and the domination of France by the bankers and capitalists, in
alliance with those who had made their fortunes out of the Revolution through
corruption and careerism and who were convinced that the Revolution had gone
If he succeeds,
Baduel will not be the candidate of the non-existent Centre but the candidate
of the Reaction. He will not be the candidate of the middle class but of
the oligarchy that exploits the fears and prejudices of the middle class. He
will not be the candidate of moderation and democracy, but of ferocious
counterrevolution. Insofar as he speaks of unity, what he means is the
Bonapartist notion of standing "above all classes" and speaking for the Nation.
But there is no Nation apart from the classes that make up the Nation. The
Bonapartist Leader who claims to speak for the Nation in reality speaks for the
rich and powerful who own the wealth of the nation and who jealously guard it.
By citing the
example of the Roman hero Cinncinatus, Dieterich is giving credence to the
propaganda of the ruling class and the imperialists. Was Cinncinatus not a
hero? And did he not save the Fatherland in its hour of need? The oligarchy is
desperate and is looking for a strong man who can stand against Chavez and halt
the Revolution. When they talk about "saving Venezuela" what they mean is
saving the power and privilege of the oligarchy that is being threatened by the
movement of the masses. They cry for Order. And what they mean is a coup and a
dictatorship that will put an end to the Revolution and teach the masses a
lesson they will never forget.
Centre or right?
Everybody knows that
Baduel has gone over to the Right – straight to the camp of the
counterrevolution – everybody, except Heinz Dieterich. He is convinced that
"the offensive of the General seeks to occupy the political centre of
the country". And Dieterich expresses
his unbounded admiration for the General’s tactics:
"Raul Baduel is an
extraordinary military man with strategic vision which explains the content
and timing of his public statement."
Moreover: "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".
"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."
like the commentator in a baseball match, remarking favourably on the
technique of one of the players. But he pointedly declines to say which
team he supports. Yes, we can agree that Baduel was a skilful
counterrevolutionary and that his technique and timing are excellent from
the point of view of the counterrevolution. His intervention was carefully
organized to coincide with the violent provocations of the right-wing students
on the streets and campuses. The General succeeded in adding to the chaos and
instability and materially assisted the camp of the "No" vote. Bravo, Baduel!
If we were to look
for historical analogies rather more recent than Cinncenatus, we can find
plenty. Mussolini was an even cleverer tactician than Baduel. His tactics in
1919-23 were impeccable and resulted in his taking absolute power and
establishing a fascist state in Italy. Does this entitle us to write with
admiration about Mussolini, to present him as an extraordinary military man
with strategic vision?
The thousands of
Italian workers, socialists, communists, trade unionists who were murdered,
tortured and imprisoned by Mussolini would find it hard to share such
admiration. And in Venezuela the consequences of a victory of the
counterrevolution would not be less serious. And let us not forget that before his
conversion to fascism Mussolini had been one of the leaders of the Italian
Socialist Party. Despite the self-evident fact that Baduel is acting in
co-ordination with the rightwing, Dieterich continues to deny this:
"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 country."
This is based on
several misconceptions. The extreme right is not necessarily "by definition
extra-constitutional". Let us recall that Hitler skilfully made use of the
Weimar Constitution to manoeuvre himself into power. With the help of big
business he contested elections and even came to power by parliamentary means
in 1933, thanks to the criminal policies of the German Stalinists and Social
Democrats. The same was true of other fascists like Dolfuss in Austria and Gil
Robles in Spain. Even today the European extreme right contests elections and
has parliamentary representatives in several countries and even (until
recently) a parliamentary group in the European parliament, which included
In Venezuela the
counterrevolutionary opposition makes use of all the democratic and
constitutional mechanisms open to it – or not, according to tactical
considerations. They used the mechanism of the recall mechanism provided by the
1999 Constitution in an attempt to get rid of Chavez. Had they succeeded, they
would have immediately abolished the right of recall and liquidated the
Constitution. They failed because of the high level of revolutionary
consciousness of the masses. In 2005 they boycotted the legislative elections
because they knew they would be defeated and wanted to cast doubt on the
legitimacy of the result. This got them nowhere, so last December they
participated in the Presidential elections and mobilized their supporters in
mass demonstrations. Once more the masses showed a very high level of maturity,
coming out onto the streets and voting massively for Chavez. At present the
opposition is combining extra-parliamentary methods (armed provocations, riots
and economic sabotage) with parliamentary tactics (calling for a "no" vote). In
other words, this is a purely tactical question for them.
In concluding that
General Baduel has gone to the right and has joined the ranks of the
counterrevolutionary opposition we do not need to refer to "official
propaganda" or "sectarianism" (whatever that might be). We refer only to the facts,
and facts are stubborn things. Is the "No" campaign in Venezuela being
organized by the counterrevolutionary opposition with the support of US
imperialism? Yes, it is. Is the intention of this campaign to discredit and
overthrow Chavez and reverse the Revolution. Yes, it is. Is it co-ordinated
with the violent provocations of the right-wing students? Yes, it is. Are the
latter intended to sow chaos and instability and create an atmosphere
favourable to a coup as in April 2002? Yes, they are.
What is Badel’s role
in all this? Is it to occupy the political centre of the country? No, it
is not. He has publicly aligned himself with the extreme rightwing, which seeks
to destroy the Revolution and throw Venezuela back. His intention (which
Dieterich finds so technically excellent) is to sow chaos and instability,
which is the same aim being pursued by the right-wing provocateurs. Faced with
these facts how can one deny that the General has gone over to the side of the
counterrevolution? Because he calls himself a democrat and makes reference to
the Constitution of 1999? So does every other right-wing demagogue in Venezuela
(although they opposed the Constitution of 1999 at the time!).
But let’s look at what Baduel actually said in
his speech in which he broke with Chávez. It is true that he did not appeal openly
for a military coup. But he said the following: "This project of a new constitution
promotes polarisation and contributes to confrontation amongst Venezuelans. It
is absurd to try to build it around an ideology, on the contrary, it should be
a social pact of the widest consensus amongst all Venezuelans, otherwise, a
broad majority will not accept it and will always try to change it even if
they have to resort to violent means to do so". [my emphasis, AW]
What he is saying clearly is that unless Chávez
withdraws the constitutional reform and agrees to one that pleases the counterrevolutionary
opposition, then they will use violent means to oppose it. This is clearly a
threat! And not a democratic, parliamentary one.
Furthermore, Baduel ended his statement with a warning not to
"underestimate the capacity of Venezuelan military men to analyse and
think", which can only be interpreted as a coded appeal to the armed
forces to come out against the reform and the referendum.
If something looks
like a sausage, smells like a sausage and tastes like a sausage, there is a
very high possibility that it is a sausage. If a man acts like a
counterrevolutionary, thinks like a counterrevolutionary and speaks like a
counterrevolutionary, there is an equally high possibility that he may be a
Break with Chavez
In the section
entitled The break with the
President and the decisive battle we read:
"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."
Dieterich remarks in
passing that Baduel has broken with the President and the Bolivarian
project. He makes this remark as if it were an insignificant detail, something
perfectly natural, which should not cause us any undue surprise or shock. "Oh,
by the way, Baduel has broken with Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution: pass
the mustard, please."
Why does he write in
this way? Because he wishes to make Baduel’s betrayal look like something
unimportant. Moreover, as we shall see, he wishes to stitch together an
agreement between Baduel and Chavez. He continues to prettify Baduel. Not
satisfied with comparing him with the Roman hero Cincinnatus, he now
compares him with Simon Bolivar – the Liberator: "The timing may seem
brutal, because it launches a "war" with no quarter, in the style
of Bolivar." Was it also in the style of Bolivar to side with the rich and
powerful against the poor and downtrodden, with the oppressors against the
oppressed? We do not think so.
The timing was brutal
because it was aimed to coincide with the violent provocations of the
rightwing and the counterrevolutionary agitation against the constitutional
changes. But Dieterich places the word "war" in inverted commas, once
again, in order to make Baduel’s act of aggression seem less severe, a mere
trifle, not a real war at all, but only a playful little game, a "war" of
words, a little misunderstanding between friends who ought to be reconciled as
soon as possible so as to put an end to the "war".
But no, this is not
a game but precisely a war – a class war – and the war has been launched in
earnest. It is a war between two mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable
camps. And as Dieterich correctly says, it is a war with no quarter.
Both the revolutionaries and the counterrevolutionaries know this. They know
they are playing for the highest possible stakes. As for Heinz Dieterich, he
adopts the policy of "one of sand and one of cement". In one sentence he places
"war" in inverted commas and in the next he says:
"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." [my emphasis, AW]
So in a couple of
sentences we pass from a phoney "war" to – a decisive battle, a battle to
decide the kind of country Venezuela is going to be. And that is partially
correct. The Venezuelan Revolution has been a series of battles in which the
antagonistic classes have fought ceaselessly to conquer ground, inch by inch.
The ground has been defended stubbornly by the ruling class and all those with
large fortunes and powerful interests to defend. The latest battle is the
constitutional reform and the December referendum, which will indeed be an
important stage in the struggle to determine what kind of society Venezuela
In this important
battle Baduel has taken sides with the counterrevolution. And Heinz Dieterich
has taken sides with Baduel. In one sense, however, we can agree with Heinz
Dieterich. Whoever wins this battle, the war will have yet to be won. A
constitution, after all, is only a bit of paper. It reflects the existing
balance of forces. It is necessary to win this battle, but once it is won, we
must continue to mobilize and fight for the socialist programme to be carried
into action. Deeds, not words and bits of paper, are what the Revolution needs
in order to triumph.
However, before we reach X, Y and Z we must
first get to A, B and C. The battle of the December referendum must be won
before the Revolution can defeat its main enemies. And in order to defeat its
main enemies, it must first clear the ground, pushing to one side all those
self-styled "friends" who are constantly advising it to compromise, retreat and
surrender, and not to give battle because
it may lose. If Simon Bolivar had listened to the advice of such "friends"
when he raised the standard of revolt with just a handful of followers, the
peoples of Latin America would still be languishing under the boot of Spanish
colonialism. Yet Professor Dieterich presumes to speak in the name of Bolivar!
The question of the state and the armed forces now occupies a key
position in the revolutionary equation. The bourgeois state has been
disintegrating for some time. But no new state power has been created to take
its place. This is a dangerous situation. The formation of a new state power
necessarily entails a new kind of army – an army of the people, a workers’ and
peasants’ militia. The new Constitution includes provisions for the setting up
of a Bolivarian Popular Militia (Art. 329) "as an integral part of the
Bolivarian Armed Forces" and states that they shall be made up of
"units of the military reserve ". That is more than one and a half
million Venezuelans. Such a force would be a powerful revolutionary instrument
for fighting the enemies of the Revolution both inside and outside national
It is not by chance that one of the issues which led to the removal of
Baduel as a Minister of Defence was his opposition to the question of a militia
army in his debate against Muller Rojas.
If the trade unions were organizations worthy of the class they would
immediately take up this proposal and set up workers’ militias in every factory
and workplace. The workers must learn the use of arms in order to defend their
conquests, to defend the Revolution against its enemies and to proceed to new
As for the army, like every other army it reflects the society in which it
lives and breathes. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers, NCOs and junior
officers are for the Revolution, just as the overwhelming majority of the
population is. In the upper echelons there are honest officers who loyally
serve the people and the Revolution. But the higher you go in the upper ranks
the less clearer the situation becomes.
The only way to ensure that all the Baduels are removed from the army is by
introducing democracy into the army, allowing the soldiers full freedom to join
political parties and trade unions. Officers should be subject to election at
regular intervals, as should every public official. Those who are loyal to the
Revolution would have nothing to fear.
The balance of forces
now shows a most tender concern for the fate of President Chavez:
"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." [my emphasis, AW]
Heinz Dieterich does
not want the President to hold a referendum – because he might lose! On
this logic, Chavez should never have stood in an election or held any
referendum in the past, because he could have lost at any time. This is an
argument, not against Chavez’s reforms, but against democracy in general.
We know that the masses, the workers and peasants, do not exist for Heinz
Dieterich. He has no time for them, he has no faith in them, he does not trust
them. All his trust is deposited with bureaucrats and generals like Baduel. Yet
the main motor force of the Revolution has been the movement of the masses.
To make matters
worse Dieterich invents a new barrier: Chavez must get at least 60% of the
votes or else call an election. Why? Who says so? A referendum, like any
election, is won or lost by a simple majority. Chavez is under no obligation to
call an election since he has only recently won an election by an overwhelming
majority – in fact, the biggest majority in the history of Venezuela. Yet again
Heinz Dieterich is trying to frighten the Revolution into beating a
The class balance of
forces remains enormously favourable for the socialist revolution in Venezuela.
That was proved yet again by the result of the Presidential election last
December. Although nine years have passed (and what years!), despite all the
difficulties, the shortages, the hardships, the sabotage and corruption, the
persistent media offensive, the masses have remained absolutely firm and
unwavering in their support for the Revolution and socialism. But sceptics like
Dieterich do not see this. They see only problems, difficulties and dangers.
When assessing the chances of Baduel and Chavez he writes:
"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."
It is certain that
Baduel has lost all support among the Bolivarian masses who represent the decisive
majority of Venezuelan society. The talk about "hard-liners" merely echoes the
poisonous propaganda of the right-wing media. As for "disappointed
Bolivarians", they will hardly support Baduel. If Bolivarians are disappointed,
it is not because the Revolution is going too fast but on the contrary,
because it is not going fast enough, not because it is going too far but
because it is not going far enough.
That is why it is
essential that, after winning the referendum, it is necessary to carry all the
promised measures into practice immediately, sweeping all resistance to one
side. The only way that the President can mobilize electoral forces which were
previously undecided or inert in his favour is not by making deals with the
opposition and retreating from his programme but by showing the utmost
determination to carry through the socialist transformation of society.
Everything indicates that the masses will once more rally to the defence of the
Revolution and vote "yes".
One by one, we have
stripped away the false and demagogic arguments of Heinz Dieterich, who is now
practically as naked as the day he was born. But we will leave him a jacket to
cover his nakedness and from his sleeve he pulls his last remaining card:
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." [my emphasis, AW]
The opposition has
regularly been defeated in every election and referendum in the last nine
years. In 2005 they did not even stand in the legislative elections because
they knew they would get a ridiculous result. In the Presidential elections of
December 2006 they were massacred. Yet, like a repeating groove on an old
gramophone record, Dieterich keeps on harping on the idea that the opposition
is tremendously strong and the revolutionary forces are tremendously weak.
This is nonsense.
The revolutionary forces are stronger than ever, and this is shown by the
phenomenal growth of the PSUV, which, with 5.5 million members, must be the
biggest political party in the history of any country. Moreover, the class
struggle is not only a question of electoral statistics. The millions who vote
for the opposition are mainly petty bourgeois elements. The shock troops of the
counterrevolution are hijos de papa – spoilt middle class brats, as
Chavez correctly called the student provocateurs. They would be scattered very
quickly in any serious conflict with the workers and peasants.
"A phase of uncertainty"
The biggest concern
to our friend Heinz is that Venezuela is entering a phase of uncertainty. But
who is responsible for this uncertainty? There is no uncertainty on the
part of the masses, who have repeatedly demonstrated their burning desire to
change society, to overthrow the oligarchy and to move towards socialism. This
will to change society was demonstrated yet again in the Presidential elections
It is the opposition
that is doing everything in its power to create an atmosphere of fear and
uncertainty, in order to destabilise the democratically elected government and
create the conditions for a coup. In this dirty work, the opposition counts on
a most valuable asset in the person of Baduel. This is admitted in so many
words by Dieterich:
"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 an option."
So there we have it:
the General’s intervention has reinforced all the forces of the ‘No’ vote, that
is to say, has reinforced the counterrevolutionary opposition. This, we
are informed, is "a historic responsibility of enormous dimensions that undoubtedly
will weigh on the conscience of General until the end of his life". Dieterich
is afraid of the revolution "going too far". But he is also afraid of the
counterrevolution "going too far". He therefore asks the General to think
carefully before acting. He appeals to Baduel’s conscience. A most
We doubt very much
that the General will lose much sleep over this appeal to his finer instincts.
In serious matters like the class struggle the consciences of generals are
rarely troubled. But whereas Dieterich appeals to Baduel only to examine his
conscience, he demands much more from Hugo Chavez. He demands complete
surrender to the counterrevolution. What does he propose? Only this: a
strategic alliance between Chavez and Baduel.
Yes, you read that
correctly! In order to save the Revolution, Chavez must ally himself with
the Counterrevolution. How does Heinz arrive at this wonderful conclusion?
As usual, he tries to frighten us with the spectre of defeat:
"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."
This is the scenario he paints: if there is a
referendum on constitutional reform, Chavez may not win (an absolute defeat),
or he may win with les than 60% (a relative defeat). The possibility
that he might win does not enter into Heinz’s calculations. He foresees
the worst possible variant: defeat (absolute or relative) in the December
referendum will open up a chronically chaotic phase ending in Chavez being
ejected from the Palace and a halt to the integration of South America.
We leave aside the
observation that the only way to achieve a genuine and lasting unification of
Latin America is by revolutionary means, as Simon Bolivar understood very well.
As long as the oligarchies continue to dominate, all talk about the integration
of South America is just so much hot air. The last 200 years is sufficient
proof of that. Once the Venezuelan Revolution is carried through to the end,
which means the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists, the workers and
peasants of Latin America would follow its lead, creating the conditions for a
socialist federation of Latin America.
The first task is to
finish what has been started: to carry out the socialist revolution in
Venezuela. But this is what Baduel and Dieterich do not want:
"To avoid this
uncertain future and prevent 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."
proposes is to unite Revolution with Counterrevolution: that is, to unite fire
with water. How is this miracle to be achieved? Both sides must make some
concessions. What concession does he demand of Baduel? He suggests that the
General examine his conscience. This is not really much of a concession! What
concession does he ask of President Chavez? Let him speak for himself:
"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."
What does this mean?
It means that, in order to please General Baduel (who represents only himself),
Hugo Chavez (who represents the overwhelming majority of the people) must
change his policies which he was elected to carry out, cancel the referendum
and abandon the constitutional reform. This would mean abandoning the movement
towards socialism, leaving the land in the hands of the landlords, the banks in
the hands of the bankers and the factories in the hands of the capitalists. It
would also mean that the majority would surrender to the minority.
This is the precise opposite of democracy. But for Heinz Dieterich it is just
what democracy means: the tail must wag the dog.
If President Chavez
were mad enough to pay any attention to Heinz Dieterich he would certainly lose
power and very quickly. Such an abject surrender to the forces of reaction
would demoralize the millions of people who voted for a decisive change last
December and are looking to the President to carry this out. Once the
reactionaries saw that the masses were no longer prepared to fight, they would
organize an offensive on all fronts. They would stage provocations and cause
chaos on such a scale that the conditions for a coup would be created and this
time it could be successful. That is the real scenario that would occur if Dieterich
were listened to. Fortunately, he will not be listened to.
The example of Evo
Morales is relevant, but not in the sense intended by Dieterich. The problem
with Evo Morales is not that he confronted the oligarchy but that he did not
confront it with sufficient strength and determination. The kind of policy
advocated by Dieterich has been attempted by Evo Morales with fatal results. It
is impossible to arrive at a compromise with the counterrevolutionary
bourgeoisie by moderation and negotiation. That only encourages them to
intensify their campaign of sabotage and provocation.
Those like Heinz Dieterich who argue that the
Bolivarian Revolution has gone too far and must retreat are playing a
pernicious role. It is impossible to make half a revolution. Either the
Revolution advances and strikes blows against the counterrevolution or it will
begin to unravel and decline, allowing the initiative to pass to the reaction.
Thus, the so-called "realism" of Dieterich turns into its opposite. As the English proverb goes: weakness
London. 21st November, 2007.