FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The General Who Called Out the Devil

by RON JACOBS

 

The reaction of most mainstream US politicians to Hugo Chavez’s recent rhetorical flourish during his speech at the United Nations where he called George Bush the devil certainly showed the world how much of a threat the Washington powermongers consider his Bolivarian revolution to be. From the liberal Nancy Pelosi of California to the far-right, Chavez’s comparison provoked a virtual flood of angry criticism. Interestingly enough, the White House did not issue a denial, leaving it open to speculation as to whether or not Chavez’s characterization of Mr. Bush was more accurate than previously acknowledged. At any rate, the point I’m trying to make here is that Hugo Chavez does not really seem to care what the politicians in Washington and their backers in the boardrooms of the US think about him. Furthermore, by adopting this attitude and expressing it at forums like the UN, Mr. Chavez has vocalized the sentiments of millions of people the world over.

Yet, his words matter little when compared to his actions to subvert the neoliberal/neoconservative agenda of Washington and its cohorts. It is these actions that strike at the heart of the Empire and which have drawn the true wrath of those whom interests they attack. The latest example of this is the stalemated campaign between Guatemala–Washington’s choice for a temporary Security Council seat at the UN– and Venezuela. Whether one is discussing Chavez’s campaign to reinvigorate OPEC or his land reform actions in the Venezuelan countryside, revolution that Chavez has named after the Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar has angered Washington, Wall Street and many a rich landowner. In addition, Chavez has frustrated many corporate hacks used to buying of Third World politicians.

It is this revolution that author Nikolas Kozloff explores in his recently released book, Hugo Chavez, Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the US. A somewhat frequent visitor to the nation as a grad student and researcher, Kozloff intertwines personal observations and experiences in Venezuela with an intelligent analysis of the meaning of Chavismo to the poor and indigenous people of Venezuela and other countries of Latin America. Something of an anti-authoritarian leftist, Kozloff is at first hesitant to give Chavez much credit for the popular movement against the neoliberal governments that ruled Venezuela prior to Chavez. However, as he investigates the changes and as the movement takes root, he writes quite positively about the changes in the Venezuelan political and economic landscape. Never, however, does the prose become a sycophantic apology for anything Chavez.

Kozloff traces the life of Chavez from an impoverished rural region of Venezuela into the military, jail and into electoral politics. While relating Chavez’s political development, the author reminds the reader that Chavez’s background is not that different from many Venezuelans. It is, however, quite different from the circumstances of those that ruled the country until Chavez’s election in 1992. As one reads the book, it becomes clear that Chavez has not forgotten his roots and, as he has developed politically, has discovered some of the fundamental reasons for the poverty he and so many of his countrymen and women live(d) in. Naturally, as his understanding developed, Chavez’s politics turned leftward. Also, quite naturally, as his politics turned left, the opposition to the man and the movement he represents has become more vocal and willing to consider extralegal means to rid themselves of him.

One of those attempts was made in 2002, when various members of Venezuela’s elite took over the seat of power on April 11. The coup lasted barely twenty-four hours. Soldiers loyal to Chavez refused to follow the orders of those officers who were involved in the coup and took back the Presidential Palace while hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters rallied in the streets. Kozloff’s description of this event and the oil “strike” led by sectors of the oil industry wanting to hold on to industry agreements that opposed to using oil profits for Chavez’s plans to help the poor (and not share said profits with foreign companies and their Venezuelan accomplices) provide a clarity to events that have never been adequately explained in the US mainstream press.

Acknowledging Chavez’s growing role in world politics, Kozloff examines his government’s foreign aid programs that emphasize barter instead of cash and tend towards highlighting the solidarity of those nations and peoples taken advantage of by the US-led neoliberal campaign. In a chapter titled “The Chavez-Morales Axis,” Venezuela’s campaign to include the indigenous populations of the Americas in the Bolivarian revolution championed by Chavez and Morales is described. According to Kozloff, much of Chavez’s interest in the plight of the indigenous stems from his mixed heritage and the consequent empathic understanding he derives from his experiences related to that heritage.

Kozloff’s book, which was recently received the wrath of a reviewer in the New York Times Business Section because of its leftist slant, is a worthwhile survey of the current political situation in Venezuela and its relations with the rest of the Americas. The supposedly leftist slant is not a detraction, even for those skeptical individuals who would approach this book with negative preconceptions regarding Mr. Chavez. Indeed, this particular take is the appropriate viewfinder from which his government should be examined. The book’s one drawback is its brevity, although it is also that aspect that makes it a good introduction to the politics and the personality that make Hugo Chavez and his supporters the force for change that they are.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail