FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Convictions of Hugo Chavez

by CHRIS GILBERT

Caracas.

Hugo Chávez, who died yesterday afternoon, was something of an Emersonian hero. “Speak your latent conviction,” said the sage of Concord, “and it shall be the universal sense.”

Chávez said things that other people thought, or at least recognized that they thought after he said them.

One could say that he expanded the notion of the political. He sang and recited poems during his innumerable hours of television… he talked incessantly.

This bothered the shit out of some people. Including me (I have to admit) some of the time. But a lot of the time I liked it.

Most people won’t remember well the details of the moment in which Chávez implied that George W. Bush was the devil. The truth is it wasn’t planned at all.

I believe the “mot juste” simply occurred to Chávez there in UN in 2006. Who smelled more of sulfur than Bush? The words traveled around the world.

These days, for a variety of reasons — even theoretical reasons — it is widely understood that political discourse has gotten pretty useless, pretty separated from people’s real needs.

In Argentina people said in 2001 “Que se vayan todos!”; in the Spanish State everyone understands politics to be the equivalent of corruption. Let’s not even speak of the U.S. (Does anyone remember “Change” or “Yes we can”?).

Chávez had his own solution to this problem. Surely it was problematic, excessively personalist.

On the other hand, it did connect with people in a way that went beyond simple reason. It inspired Venezuelans, Latin Americans, and many others.

To inspire is literally to fill with breath, or life. Politics has become something too without feeling, without flavor, without life. It has become an affair conducted by strawmen and strawwomen.

Chávez, whatever one thinks of him, was not a straw man. He was actually a gentleman in that he was never vulgar (in the real sense of that term), and he never humiliated weak people. Only the strong.

The earliest video recording of Chávez that I have seen shows a young officer, incredibly gregarious, singing and trying to get people to sing. It would be a good way to remember him if it were not for his most brilliant political moment: the “por ahora” speech.

This was not planned either: Chávez, after giving himself up in the failed military uprising of 1992, was permitted a couple of minutes on national television. He basically said that the uprising should cease, that everyone should abandon their arms.

But almost unconsciously, without thinking much about it, really only to be true to himself (his latent conviction) Chávez slipped in the words “por ahora” (“for now”).

That was the proverbial spark that set fire to the field. That fire continues to burn in Latin America and in the world, and will for some time.

It is also true that a few more sparks of its kind are needed.

Chris Gilbert is professor of Political Science at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail