Archive for July 15th, 2005

Two lefts and a rifle by Eduardo Mayobre

July 15, 2005

A while back I translated
an article by Eduardo Mayobre
, because I found it to be an extremely lucid
illustration of how Chavez tries to sell what is only militarism, as a new type
of socialism. This is a very important point because many people abroad don’t
seem to understand how pervasive the military element has become in what is
going on in Venezuela.
In this week’s Zeta magazine, Mayobre once again addresses the issue with
clarity, in the context of the new book by Petkoff entitled “The two lefts”. I
don’t know Mayobre, but he seems like a very clear thinker that should be paid
attention to and read frequently.

Two lefts and a rifle by Eduardo Mayobre

Petkoff has put on the table a topic that without any doubt is important. In his last book, he proposes the existence of
two lefts. In one side, there is the one embodied by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez,
and on the other, that represented by Lula, Lagos, Kirchner and Tabare Vasquez. He points
out that these leaders that rule part of Latin America
and constitute a reaction to the neo-liberal policies of the last decade of the
last XXth. Century. Despite this common trait, he considers them to be very
different. In his own words: “These two currents of the left coexist in the
continent and even if superficially they can be taken as part of the same
“family”, there are visible contradictions that oppose each other.”

difference consists-according to Petkoff- in that while one left, that of Fidel
and Chavez, persist in the “infantilism” and “voluntarism” and tries to impose
itself with the use of force, the other one has internalized democratic values
and tries to march “by a path of advanced reform, which makes compatible social
sensibility with the understanding that transformation in societies passes
through economic development with equality and through the strengthening and
deepening of democracy”

analysis is intelligent and astute, as he has accustomed us to. But it lacks
two factors that, we think, can not be forgotten. On the one hand, that the
contrast between the two lefts exists not only when you compare different
countries, but that you also find it within each one of them. On the other hand
there are factors foreign to leftwing movements that condition this
contradiction, very particularly their militarism.

respect to the first, the democratic left and the totalist left (let’s not call
it totalitarian) have coexisted throughout the years. Thus, the diagnose can
not be made looking only to what is currently happening, but also considering
what happened in the previous years. From this last point of view, limiting ourselves
only to Venezuela,
we can observe how the two lefts have had a struggle that goes back to the
thirties of the XXth. Century. While one advocated making changes that would
have as their base the democratic system, the other one insisted in making a
total revolution, like the Soviet one, so as to advance faster towards the
forefront of history. The first reached power in 1945 and part of the second
one in 1999.

The other
observation about Petkoff’s focus is that he does not give sufficient importance
to militarism as a live and present force in our history, the same one that led
to some of those leftwing projects to support themselves on the crutches of the
men of arms. The progressive left, that in Venezuela has been nothing but Acción
Democrática, partnered itself with a military conspiracy in 1945 in order to
reach power. As Romulo Betancourt referred to the revolt: “The de facto
Government was born from a typical coup d’ etat and not a brave popular
insurgence. One should not underline what the negative aspects of that
circumstance”. The other left has also reached power, half a century later,
behind a military officer.

difference between one ascent and the other consists in that while in 1945 Acción
Democrática reached power with a big welcome and imposed its policies during
three years, the role of the totalist left in the current Government is almost
symbolic and it limits itself to the submission in front of the strongman On October 17th 1945, a day before
the coup, Betancourt sad at a rally that “Acción Democratic will never be part
of a Government like the poor relative that goes in thru the service door and occupy
two or three of the so called technical ministries” That is exactly what the
totalist left has done now.

In both
cases they ended up being dominated by the military. In the first, sending the
adecos to jail or exile. In the second, managing to put the vanguard to its
service. The adecos learned that it was not possible to rule together with the
military without them ending up drawing their revolver, while the vanguardists
concluded that it is better to lower your head when they draw it.

On the other
hand, in the sixties there appeared a left that wanted to confront the military
with weapons. They had their inspiration in the triumph of Fidel in Cuba and
counted on the army being weakened, in the face of public opinion, due to the abuses
committed by the regime of the armed forces in the fifties. They were defeated.

From the
experience, two currents arose that began to differentiate themselves more and
more with the passage of time. On the one hand, those-like Teodoro-incorporated
themselves to democratic life. And, on the other, some decimated and
demoralized groups that he has called the “borbonic” left, because it does not
learn, nor does it forget. The latter ones hid themselves out until they found
a military officer that remembered them. Thus, they arrived to the Government
on the coattails of the lieutenant colonels. And they were more borbonic than
ever, because, much like the royal house, they only fulfill a role of protocol
in the effective Government. Because one has to have it clear that the regime
is, before anything else, the armed forces

in our history, besides the one, two, many lefts-we have always had as a
determining factor the men of arms. That is why both in political practice as
well as in the historical analysis, it becomes very difficult to do away with
the role of the rifle. (This Government has this very clear, that is why it
imports them from Russia).
The left that, has forgotten that it has been right, but it does not have the
public positions. We could call it-imitating Teodoro- the anti-borbonic left,
because it forgets, it learns, but it never gets the power and is only left to
write in the newspapers, if by chance they are allowed to do so.

difference between Venezuela
with the other South American countries lies in the fact that in the latter the
Armed Forces are profoundly and recently discredited due to the barbaric acts
they committed during the second half of the XXth. Century. That has determined
that the military have retired themselves to their forts and do not participate
in political life. This has allowed an ideological debate without the
interference from the men of arms. The discussion has benefited most of the
time progressive forces, and because of this, in many of them the representatives
from the left have won.

Here, on
the other hand, the military have been absent from politics for almost forty
years-but they have come back en force. Because it was little what they had to
offer, they had to search for a political orientation and they found it in the
borbonic left. But because they had learned the lesson in 1945, they did not
allow their leadership to be taken away. The civilian that has pretenses of
leadership is sidelined (Miquelena’s case) and those that want to stay have to
obey… That is why the military promotions of this month of July have been
followed with passion and with the detailed attention that was once dedicated
to the elections of the general secretaries of political parties.

The evident
dominance of the military recently led the British magazine The Economist to
conclude, after making an evaluation of the current administration, that
“whatever the outcome of the revolution is, the most lasting legacy of Chavez
will be a politicized Armed Forces”. Thus it is possible that we may have to
wait until, much like the South,, the military establishment loses its prestige
(hopefully not for the same reasons) in order to have a civilized civilian life
and in order to have a meaningful debate about the two lefts without having a
rifle pointed at us. Fortunately a politicized Armed Force always loses its
prestige, as has been possible to observe already. But hopefully it will not be
necessary to have a confrontation for the military to have conscience of this. Meanwhile,
in our analysis we can not forget to consider that, between one left and the
other, there is a loaded weapon.

The Sumate Files

July 15, 2005

Don’t forget to check out “The Sumate files” blog, which will cover  and document the absurd trial against the ONG by this fascist Government