Hugo Chávez the man who moved a continent!

By Heiko Khoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 7, 2013
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Huge Chavez in 2004. [Photo by Heiko Khoo]

Huge Chavez in 2004. [Photo by Heiko Khoo]

Venezuelans will bid Hugo Chávez their last farewell by singing their national anthem. Its powerful words express his revolutionary mission:

Glorious brave people

Who shook off the yoke,

Respecting law, virtue and honour.

"Down with the chains!

Screamed the Lord,

And the poor in their huts

Cried freedom.

In his sacred name, there trembled in fear

The vile egoism that had triumphed.

Let's cry out aloud,

Death to oppression!

Faithful countrymen, our strength is our unity;

And from the heavens

The supreme Author

Breathed a sublime spirit

Into the nation.

United by bonds,

formed in the sky,

All America

Exists as a Nation;

And if despotism

Raises its voice,

Follow the example

Given by Caracas.

Hugo Chávez was a man who truly made history for the people. He revolutionized his nation by single-minded determination and his unique ability to give voice to the collective unconscious of millions of downtrodden, silenced and forgotten people. He awakened a symphony of revolutionary energy and expression that pollinated the winds of South America and beyond, fertilising and arousing universal hopes and dreams.

Anyone with open eyes and the ability to imagine can envisage South America as a paradise on earth. Yet, what centuries of torture and suffering these people endured for the enrichment of oligarchs and Imperialist powers? Who, out of a Garden of Eden, manufactured penury, torture, warfare and dictatorship! Such glaring contradictions found expression in the heroism of thousands of revolutionaries who gave their lives in the struggle for socialism in South America over the last 58 years in which Chávez lived.

There were those who called Chávez too meek, in the face of resistance and violence by the old elite. He spent 14 years as President of Venezuela learning about the nature of power, and he used each experience acquired to teach the masses what he learnt. This national didactic dialogue took place on live television, where the process of power was played out and alienated. This made power appear to be plastic and changeable and opened the door to popular participation. There was even a famous film, misnamed “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, that recorded a coup-d-etat against Chávez in 2002, and his triumphant return to power, on the back of a revolutionary uprising.

Chávez was well aware of the negative effect that the towering influence of his charisma had. He constantly invoked the collective mind, incarnated in the slogan, “Chávez is the people and the people are Chávez.” This, cheap though it sounds to the outsider, has very real meaning to the Venezuelan masses. They will mourn his loss as if he was their own father. One positive consequence is that Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s chosen successor, is likely to win a landslide victory in new Presidential elections.

One can state without fear of contradiction, that today, Venezuela is the most politicized nation on earth. Even the poorest people discuss the intricacies of world politics on the street, living proof of the depth of the process of awakening that Chávez masterminded.

Right-wing critics claimed that he improved the lot of the poor by squandering the nation’s oil revenue on health, education and social programmes, whilst ignoring economic efficiency. However, for conscious people, their natural wealth is naturally seen as the property of all, and, the needs of the people are placed above the enrichment of a few. But by empowering the masses with a sense of participation and self-governance, Chávez shattered the cowering subservience that is so typical of a capitalist society. This evoked a frenzied reaction within the middle and upper classes, whose privileged position at birth fostered a repulsive arrogance vis-à-vis the “unclean” masses. In Venezuela, the people stood up!

There were some who squealed when Chávez declared his friendship with world leaders labelled as mad or dictatorial by Western governments and the media. As if by some mystical means Chávez should have developed a universal capacity to perfectly judge his peers! Instead, Chávez was a human being who tried to make sense of the world through his own experiences.

The main global legacy of Hugo Chávez is that he proved that a socialist transformation could be initiated and consolidated with a popular electoral mandate, even where the capitalist class retains powerful influence inside the army, police, judiciary, economy and mass media. This shows that capitalist politics can be beaten, even at its own game! Although the capitalist class retain powerful points of support in Venezuela – that may be used in the coming period to destabilize the country – the profoundly democratic character of the Venezuelan revolution reveals the potential for a wind of change to sweep away the capitalist system and restructure the global balance of wealth and power in the interest of the majority. Chávez showed that history was very much alive and kicking at a time when the victory of the West seemed assured.

Chávez, like his mentor and teacher, Fidel Castro, gave his all for this struggle; unflinching in times of betrayal; determined in times of difficulty; and bold in times of hesitancy. No one in his entourage has come near to his stature or his energetic and intuitive sense of timing.

It remains to be seen whether a collective leadership backed by the renewed energy of active revolutionaries, can take up Venezuela’s socialist cause in a way that gives birth to a new wave of creative transformation. What is certainly true, is that China can help to neutralize U.S. supported destabilization efforts, by stepping up its bonds to Venezuela’s social, housing, educational, health and infrastructure projects, and by taking an implacable stance of opposition to U.S. sponsored plots and intrigues against the Venezuelan revolution.

What follows is an amended poem by Bertolt Brecht called “In Praise of the Revolutionary.” It is dedicated to the memory of Hugo Chávez.

When exploitation is on the rise

Many get discouraged

But his courage grew.

He organized the struggle

For a wage rise of a penny,

for hot water for tea

And to take power.

He asked of property:

What is your origin?

He asked of viewpoints:

Whom do you serve?

Where there was hushed silence

He spoke out

Wherever there was oppression, and talk was of fate

He called things by their real name.

Where he sat at the table

Dissatisfaction also sat

The food seemed tasteless

The room too narrow.

When they chased him away

Turmoil followed,

Where they hunted him down

Unrest remained.

And when he died his spirit lived on.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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