The Political Legacy of Hugo Chavez

By James Petras

Hugo Chavez always thought that the Bolivarian revolution was a continuous process in two senses – 1) the contemporary revolution was a continuation of the historic national liberation struggle led by Simon Bolivar in the early 19th century. 2) The political and national revolution begun with his election in 1998 must, of necessity, advance to a socialist transformation.

Chavez understood that political power, involved more than winning elections and entering the Presidential Palace; the strategic political objective was transforming the neo-colonial state, in order to advance the national liberation revolution, which in Venezuela meant ,creating an independent nation. In a petroleum state, national liberation meant taking total control over the petrol industry and redistributing the revenues to the majority of the working people. For Chavez the nationalist revolution was a necessary step toward advancing the socialist revolution.

For Chavez the nationalization of strategic industries was a step toward socialization of the economy – the decentralization of control into the hands of communal councils. For Chavez either the revolution advanced from the political and economic to a social, cultural and ethical transformation or it would stagnate, reverse and be defeated.

In every major crises, the coup of 2002, the lockout of 2003, the referendum of 2004, the decade of military threats and sabotage from Washington and Bogota, Chavez responded by radicalizing the revolution, mobilizing the masses and internationalizing the revolution.

At every point of class confrontation, Chavez never retreated; instead of compromising with the bourgeoisie, he intensified his efforts to raise national and socialist consciousness among the masses.

Chavez waged a two front struggle; 1) against the ‘external enemy’ – US imperialism, the Colombian terrorist state and the Venezuelan capitalist class, 2) against the internal enemies, those leaders and officials in the Bolivarian state and PSUV who were part of the rentier legacy and engaged in corruption, abuse of power and who failed to respond to popular demands. Chavez declared war on bureaucratism and conciliation with the bourgeois.

Chavez understood that the capacity to resist the ‘external enemies’ depended on conscious, organized, mass movements. Chavez detested bureaucratic, incompetent and corrupt leaders who wanted to prevent the revolution from advancing .Those officials who sought to stifle the advance of popular power, to marginalize the communal councils, to concentrate power in the hands of a bureaucratic elite in order to negotiate a compromise with imperialism and the local bourgeoisie which would leave the basic institutions and privileges of capitalist society intact.

Chavez’s basic political legacy is his recognition that the dialectal relation between the external and internal enemies of the continuous revolution, required the deepening of the spiritual, cultural and political consciousness through the radicalization of the class struggle and audacious mass action.

Faced with capitalist sabotage of the economy, Chavez declared the need to nationalize all the major industries. Faced with financial swindles by private and public officials, Chavez demanded the socialization of the banking system.

Faced with imperial blockades, Chavez sought new international allies: he deepened ties with Latin American, Islamic, Russian and Chinese nationalists.

Today Venezuela faces its biggest crises since the election of Chavez.
President Maduro faces two choices – either to pursue the road detailed by Chavez, the road of continuous revolution, or to seek the path of conciliation, surrender and defeat.

Chavez identified the five interrelated historical objectives of the Venezuelan people on the path to revolution. He established the national framework, put socialism on the immediate agenda, successfully promoted South American unity, participated in the creation of a multi-centered world and raised the issue of climate change.

President Chavez advances are in mortal danger today from external and internal enemies. The continuation and realization of Chavez historical objectives rests in the hands of the advanced sectors of the revolutionary masses over the next few months.