When any much loved person dies, what sees those left behind through the pain and grief of their bereavement are the very gifts and qualities their admiration recognized over the life of the person they loved and lost. In that sense, the legacy of Hugo Chávez has no precedent. His presence in death has assumed proportions setting him far beyond any other figure in recent world history.
Venezuela and the region
It is beyond debate that under President Chávez, Venezuela’s economy has grown and progressed, redistributing wealth so as to dramatically reduce poverty and increase income equality. Likewise, Venezuela’s bilateral and multilateral development cooperation and trade initiatives have achieved unprecedented regional change. The Petrocaribe programme and the broader Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) framework have dramatically transformed countries previously consigned to the fruitless treadmill of rich country aid and debt.
The logic Hugo Chávez developed as he realized this liberating, deeply humanitarian national and regional vision, naturally lead him to apply its fundamental tenets to global international relations. Uncompromising anti-imperialism in Venezuela’s foreign policy mirrored the absolute respect Chávez assigned the human person as the focus of Venezuela’s national political, economic and social policy. His forthright defence of national sovereignty and national self-determination was a direct corollary of his identity with Venezuela’s impoverished majority.
For the global majority, centuries old victims of European and North American barbarian imperial savagery, Comandante Hugo Chávez came as a saviour at a most opportune historical moment. His deep popular intuition enabled him to rehabilitate the marxist concept of class struggle, stressing socialism’s moral dimension while also drawing on the many springs of Latin American spirituality – not just Christianity but also indigenous beliefs and faiths derived from Africa. His military training enabled Hugo Chávez to impose on this eclectic ideological and spiritual formation a formidable self-discipline inspiring admiration and emulation among the broadest imaginable range of people.
His originality made it possible for Hugo Chávez to perceive and to take advantage of a historical moment and spirit which he himself learned to shape and drive. Even as the Soviet Union broke apart, the malignant imperialist ancien regime of North America and Europe itself entered into terminal decay. The varieties of imperial decline were obvious even as cynical, glib salesmen for the global elites like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair falsely declared the triumph of their societies’ corrupt, inhuman zombie capitalism.
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, progressive movements of the time kept faith with the revolutionary impulse of the Cuban Revolution, that most acute modern expression of Latin America and the Caribbean’s historical impulse for liberation. Backed up by the experience and solidarity of leaders like Fidel Castro, Lula da Silva, Daniel Ortega and many others, Hugo Chavez was able to seize the historical moment. With incomparable elan and integrity, he accomplished the task of mobilizing the material and human resources necessary to liberate his country’s wealth and put it to work on behalf not just of Venezuela’s impoverished majority but that of the whole region.
Global inspiration, imperial target
All this explains both the enormous loyalty and the boundless affection for Hugo Chávez across Latin America and the Caribbean. At a global level, his projection of the Bolivarian vision engendered similar loyalty and affection among the peoples and leaders of China and Russia and many other countries across Africa and Asia. More than any other international figure it was Hugo Chávez who encouraged regional integration as a means of breaking the economic and political domination of North America and Europe. Currently, the NATO powers are desperately seeking to cut short that process in Africa, because in Latin America they have been completely out-manoeuvred by Hugo Chavez and his ALBA country colleagues.
Unprecedentedly successful, Venezuela’s example of anti-imperialist independence provoked mortal hatred for Hugo Chávez among the venal, malevolent elites of the United States, Canada, the European Union, their allies in Israel and in the feudal tyrannies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Perhaps only Muammar al Ghaddafi was more cruelly vilified in his lifetime than Hugo Chávez by the global corporate media. Thanks to the stoic, undaunted example of leaders like Hugo Chávez and Muammar al Ghaddafi, that vilification has become a badge of honour for revolutionaries around the world.
The extraordinary paradox in the case of Hugo Chávez is that his death categorically marks the breakdown of North America and Europe’s corporate psy-warfare machinery and the general disgrace of that machinery’s regional arms. Latin America’s right-wing opposition have always habitually spoon-fed lies into NATO country corporate mass media so as to consume them back again later as dominant global elite psy-warfare vomit. The sado-maschistic recycling routine has always been that Latin America’s right wing media constantly collect the regurgitated mess, sending it back to the global corporate media kitchen to be served up over and over again.
The irrepressible regional popular outburst of grief and mourning for Hugo Chávez marks the definitive breakdown of that sick psychological warfare infinite feedback mechanism. No one can fail to note the morbid sympathy and support of flagship progressive media like the UK Guardian or the New York Times and their liberal and social democrat European counterparts for the lies of Venezuelan opposition leaders like Henry Capriles. The global corporate media will certainly continue with business as usual.
Even so, now immortal, Hugo Chávez will continue to defeat the US government, its allies and their pathetic, servile corporate psy-warfare media more convincingly than ever. It is no exaggeration to remark that Hugo Chávez now lives not just in the Venezuelan popular majority but in that of the whole world. Less obvious than the defeat of the global right wing media have been the implications of the death of Hugo Chávez for the imperialist elites’ fellow travellers in the North American and European neocolonial Left.
Accounts of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution by leading North American and European progressives often talk about the subversive nature of the revolution in Venezuela as if that process somehow takes North America or Europe as some kind of reference point. Much of the neocolonial Left intellectual-managerial class are impervious to the reality that, as Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has said, “Diversity exists in the time each process takes and the conditions each process has to contend with.”
The revolutionary processes in Latin America are working out their own contradictions, not those of Europe and North America. If Hugo Chávez personifies Latin America’s commitment to that determining reality, he does so in a uniquely redemptive way matched perhaps only by Comandante Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Their profound identity with the impoverished majority of their countries has enabled them to transcend the vanity and self-absorption all too frequently engendered by the habitual exercise of political power.
An example of the kind of contradiction such vanity and self-absorption could provoke for Hugo Chavez was the case of Joaquin Perez Becerra, the Swedish journalist of Colombian origin handed over without due process by the Venezuelan authorities to Colombia in 2011. Even though the decision was based on the misguided advice of his officials, President Chávez took responsibility for what many continue to regard as a disappointing mistake. Even so, he was able to redeem the negative fallout from the decision, making possible the peace negotiations currently under way in Havana between the Santos regime and the FARC resistance movement.
That self-critical determination to make progress in practical ways on all levels of national and regional life despite every kind of difficulty and shortcoming has been truly redemptive not just in Venezuela but across Latin America. It is a truly revolutionary liberation process. Conducting it, sometimes guided by it, leaders like Hugo Chávez and his ALBA country colleagues have built unity out of dissent, attracting everyone anxious to defeat poverty and to see their country’s people live well.
Chávez and Nicaragua
The death of Hugo Chávez has been a terribly cruel blow, crushing the hopes everyone of good will in the world had nurtured for his recovery. In Nicaragua, the sense of loss has been acute, heartfelt and deep. Everyone here, bar the US and European aligned opposition, recognized the intimate connections between the Sandinista revolution and the Bolivarian liberation of Venezuela and the region, embodied in the person of Comandante Hugo Chávez.
Along with the obvious, somewhat distant, historical connections between Hugo Chávez and the Sandinista Revolution, the lives of Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their colleagues are also intricately entwined, perhaps indivisible. No question exists that Hugo Chávez learned enormously from the exchange of experience during the long years of adversity endured by Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their FSLN colleagues. These exchanges may have been at least as important as those with the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro in framing the political, economic and social strategy Hugo Chávez developed in Venezuela and the region.
In particular, Hugo Chávez and the colleagues morally closest to him will have understood the contemptible role of Nicaragua’s social democrats, now openly aligned with Nicaragua’s extremist right wing. They will have noted too how the international neocolonial Left sided with those social democrats against the FSLN. Like Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chávez has understood from the start the meaning of Sandino’s dictum “only workers and campesinos will see things through to the end”, because both he and Daniel Ortega have lived out that very reality in their own lives
Embodied in Sandino’s words are his sharp understanding of class struggle and also his total spiritual identification with the impoverished majority of Nicaragua, Latin America and the world. What we are witnessing now following the death of Comandante Hugo Chávez is the redemptive power of the historical vision Sandino shared with Bolivar and Martí and untold other precursors of Latin America’s final liberation. Thanks to modern communications technology, the contribution to human history of Hugo Chávez will surpass, in its global impact, those of his heroic forebears.
We will see this on April 14th next. Comandante Hugo Chavez will win a triumphant electoral vindication along with Nicolas Maduro and his Venezuelan government colleagues. For Hugo Chávez, that victory will mean he transcends the kind of apotheosis attained by Statesmen-martyrs like Patrice Lumumba, Salvador Allende, Thomas Sankara or Muammar al Gaddhafi. It will be his resurrection as an undying moral, spiritual and political force informing and educating the collective conscience and imagination of all humanity for as long as that conscience and imagination exist.