Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why It’s Hard to Understand What’s Happening in Venezuela

Photo by tux0racer | CC BY 2.0

We hear about violence in Venezuela but not about politically motivated deaths in Mexico, Colombia and Honduras. Rigoberta Menchú, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her 10-year campaign against military terror in Guatemala, asked “En nombre de qué lógica” does it make sense to single out Cuba and ignore what is happening elsewhere? So it goes with Venezuela.

It should be familiar logic. Einstein said that “mere thinking” doesn’t produce great science. He knew something Marx knew, namely, that facts always depend upon a particular perspective. It means that situations sometimes need to be changed, fundamentally, to see the facts, or some of them.

It is why José Martí declared, in his famous ‘Our America”, that a bigger hurdle for Latin America, than the power of the North, was a false view of being educated. It doesn’t happen just by possessing information. Some information doesn’t figure, without work. This point matters.

Knowledge is not power. If we don’t know what knowledge explains, or might, it’s useless. In the last 30 years, the world has produced more information than in the preceding 5,000.[i] Daily murders of journalists in Mexico are reported. There is no lack of information.

In Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Inspector Javert relentlessly pursues ex-convict Jean Valjean. It’s not from malice. It’s how Javert understands justice, to which he is absolutely committed. When Valjean has a chance for revenge, he sets Javert free. Javert doesn’t know what to do with an act of mercy when revenge, by ordinary reasoning, is expected.

Hugo writes that “Javert saw two roads ahead of him, both equally straight, but he saw two of them, and this terrified him, for he had never in his life known more than one straight line”.

The Right in Venezuela calls for immediate elections, expecting social and economic chaos to influence results. Yet after the failure of the first republic, Simón Bolívar, liberal though he was, said elections would sell Venezuela back to slavery. In his Cartagena Manifesto (1812), he argued that popular elections in such conditions would favour the ignorant and ambitious. He was not a dictator.

He knew the independence struggle was shackled by social structures.[ii] It required authority needed for institutional change. Similarly, Peruvian José Carlos Mariátequi, known, like Bolívar, to admire European ideas, was skeptical about “deliberation and votes” as definitive of democracy. [iii] Elections don’t easily express the will of the people when some people don’t count.

Victor Hugo had a lot in common with Martí, leader of Cuba’s last independence war against Spain.[iv] Valjean, the convict, was “no longer the like of the living, so to speak”. And for Valjean, it is “better to suffer, to bleed  … [than to] never look openly, to squint”. It’s about seeing what is there. Valjean refuses to “never look openly”.

Bolívar, Mariátegui and Martí knew that to “look openly” is first and foremost a struggle against imperialism. To talk about justice and elections without acknowledging the “march of humanity” is to never look openly. We want truth not dreams, Martí wrote. It is an obvious claim for those “no longer the like of the living”. But truth is hard. It’s not “mere thinking”, or collecting facts.

Hugo was a liberal. But he was “more tolerant of human frailty than our own Anglo-American liberalism”.[v] Lamentably, the latter dominates, including much of the left, especially in Academia. They may want to be “irreproachable”, as did Javert.

He didn’t want to see that the “rules could be brought up short by a deed”. Ana Belén Montes is one who could see this.[vi] The deed, in her case, was the Cuban Revolution. She’s in jail in the US. She saved lives but they were of people Madeleine Albright says are “worth the price …  if it furthers U.S. foreign policy objectives.” (Please sign petition here.)

Hugo, like Martí, warned of false ideals. Against the grain of current obsessions with happiness, he writes “it’s a terrible thing to be happy. How we content ourselves with it. How easily, having attained the false aim of life, we forget the real aim, duty”. Happiness is uninteresting, compared with truth.

Ana Belén Montes didn’t forget the real aim. She did what she did, she says, because the Cuban Revolution must exist.

The Bolivarian Revolution must also exist. It should be criticized, true, but not from the “the blind iron horse of the straight and narrow” that finally debilitated Javert. It has to do with truth. The familiar logic denounced by Menchú (and Bolívar, Mariátegui, Martí and others) needs to be named, persistently.

Notes.

[i] Pascual Serrano, “El compromiso de los intelectuales en el siglo XXI” Cubadebate 11 julio 2017

[ii] John Lynch, Simon Bolívar A Life (2006) 63-68.

[iii] .”Peru’s principal problem”, José Carlos Mariátegui: An anthology (Monthly Review Press) 142

[iv] Carmen Suárez León, José Martí y Victor Hugo, en el fiel de las modernindades (Havana: Centro de investigación y desarrollo de la cultura cubana, 1996)

[v] Allan Gopnik, “Introduction” Les Misérables (2008)

[vi] E.g. http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

More articles by:

Susan Babbitt is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014).

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail