(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 10, 2013
Carry Forward Chavez’s Legacy
WITH profound grief and sorrow, the world heard the news of the death of Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. Battling cancer for over two years, Hugo Chavez finally succumbed to this killer disease on March 5 in Caracas, Venezuela. Progressive forces the world over have lost a charismatic leader who radically changed the course of history, particularly the course of history of the Latin American continent during the last decades. He showed in practice that an alternative to neo-liberalism and its trajectory of economic policies was possible within the capitalist system itself. He showed this in the backyard of US imperialism and, thus, challenged its hegemonic drive both ideologically and economically. Of particular significance is his passionate pursuit of the vision of socialism which he confidently believed would be realised through the pursuit of the pro-people and anti-imperialist policies that he had put in place. Till his death, he remained inspired by the Cuban Revolution and its achievements.
Hugo Chavez profoundly influenced the political processes in Latin America by example. This resulted in the swell of popular anti-imperialist mass upsurges in all Latin American countries. The victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia, in particular, gave added strength to Chavez and, together with Cuba, they set in motion the process of a radical progressive transformation in Latin America. This has resulted in the victory of progressive anti-US imperialist forces in elections in a majority of the Latin American countries. He played an important role in mobilising the developing countries to battle the domination of the developed countries in various global fora – WTO, climate change etc – and actively co-operated with the developing countries groupings such as BRICS, IBSA, NAM etc. He, thus, emerged as a symbol of anti-imperialism on a global scale.
Hugo Chavez clearly identified the neo-liberal policies pursued by the successive regimes in Venezuela as the culprit for the mass deprivation in his country. The brutal oppression with which dissent to these policies was suppressed, particularly the Caracazo had deeply influenced him. One of the first things he had done after getting elected as the president of the country was to call for election of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution for the country, a pro-people constitution. Armed with the Bolivarian Constitution which granted rights to the deprived sections of the society, he set upon the task of transforming the lives of the people of Venezuela. One of the important things that he did was to nationalise the oil and gas production in the country. He, in turn, used the monies generated by the oil and gas production to fund the various social welfare programmes, ie, use the national wealth for the benefit of the people of the nation. When the rich oligarchs who had lost their main source of economic power tried to sabotage, he successfully mobilised the workers to defend the government. It is, once again, only this popular support that Chavez enjoyed among the masses that ultimately forced the conspirators of a coup against him to back out and restore him to presidency.
To break the bureaucratic State mechanism and involve the people more in a way of participatory democracy, he developed programmes for the people called 'Missions'. More than 19 Missions dealing with the concerns of the citizens were initiated. These Missions had a significant impact on health and education sectors. By 2006, illiteracy was completely wiped out from the country, making it the second country in the entire Latin America, only after socialist Cuba, to achieve this feat. With the help of Cuban doctors, he had ensured free access to basic healthcare for all the citizens of the country. It is through these Missions that he had ensured the supply of subsidised foodgrains to the people even in the times of rising food prices and economic crisis. Only a year ago, Chavez had signed a truly 'revolutionary' labour law, granting widespread rights to the workers. The government had legally allowed the workers to take over a factory. Chavez had in fact nationalised many factories during his term and allowed the workers' committees to manage them. Minimum wages are increased every year. However, Chavez was aware that there still exists scope for a lot to be done to really transform the lives of the working class.
Chavez had initiated measures to implement land reforms and break the huge landholdings. He went ahead in implementing this law notwithstanding the opposition from the latifunda, or the landed gentry. The importance lies in the fact that these achievements were made possible in the background of sustained US campaign to destabilise the regime.
Hugo Chavez was a committed anti-imperialist, who stood for the rights of the developing countries. He always tried to build alliances between the developing countries and actively strove to promote South-South cooperation. As a counter to the Plan Columbia of the US that tried to impose the hegemony of the US and the neo-liberal policies dictated by it on the entire region, Chavez along with Cuba, promoted the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America. Many rounds of discussions were held to take these ties further by establishing a Bank of South and a common currency for the entire region, Sucre, a dream of Chavez that is waiting to be fulfilled.
His fiery criticism of imperialism, finance capital and denouncement of wars of plunder waged by them to control the resources of the developing countries was reflected in the famous speech he had delivered in the UN General Assembly, coming to speak after George Bush. Calling imperialism as the devil, he used the platform to appeal for democratisation of the world order and renounced the attempts of imperialism to impose its hegemony.
While Hugo Chavez’s death leaves a void that is impossible to fill, his legacy is an asset that will inspire and galvanise popular mass anti-imperialist upsurges across the world. These growing struggles will ensure the realisation of the vision of socialism, the emancipator of the vast majority of global population. Strengthening such struggles is the true homage to Hugo Chavez.
This determination was reflected when in Caracas, where thousands of people gathered shouting that “Chavez lives, the struggle continues” as well as swearing that the Venezuelan bourgeoisie “will never return” to the Miraflores Palace. Nicolos Maduro, the vice president who succeeded Chavez (elections are due in a month) said, “Men and women loyal to Chavez, we’re going to continue with our duties, so that no single program for the people is held back. Our people will never again see the bourgeoisie plundering this country”. He added, “Better to be dead than traitors to the people and to Chavez”!
(March 7, 2013)