Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Convictions of Hugo Chavez

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.

More articles by:

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

October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail