[Marxism] Re: Ollanta Humala interview (Chavez role in Caracazo)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Apr 6 20:34:22 MDT 2006

Walter Lippmann writes:
Chavez was a reform-minded officer
who participated in the repression of the Caracazo in 1988. That is why
he changed his views, when he saw what was going on. See the new movie
EL CARACAZO if and when it gets released in the United States.

>From the little I know, this misrepresents Chavez's role in the
Caracazo.  If Humala carried out a role similar to Chavez in the
Caracazo, that would mean that he stood on the poor and oppressed even
as a military officer in the dirty war against Shining Path, etc.  That
would be good news, and not irrelevant to the current situation.
According to Richard Gott's "In the Shadow of the Liberator," which I
have by the grace of Walter, Chavez formed a group of
national-revolutionary minded (not exactly "reform") existed for a few
years prior to the Caracazo, and when the explosion occurred, they were
upset at not being organized enough to lead the movement toward a
popularly-based coup (Chavez's model at the time was something like the
Panamanian "revolution" under  Torrijos -- which really did change
things including ultimately retaking the Canal Zone and Canal.  Chavez's
criticism of Torrijos was that the Panamanian leader did not involve the
masses deeply enough in the changes, which were thus easily eroded by
imperialist and local elite pressure.
CARACAZO -- not a mere repression, but a bloody slaughter probably in
the thousands.  But they did not have the power to prevent it as they
wanted to.
So his troops, and those of his radical fellow officers, set out to
demonstrate to the masses that there were sections of the army that
identified with them.  Their troops were barred from using weapons.
They did not arrest people or shoot anyone as far as I knew.  They went
into neighborhoods and contained rioting by organizing orderly food
distributions from warehouses.
And when the rebellion had ended -- apparently crushed but really having
dealt what proved to be a death blow to the existing political
structures -- Chavez began working with civilian leftist and protest
groups to try to win support for a military coup to be the start of a
national social transformation.
Perhaps Humala will turn out to have a similar record.  As I wrote
earlier, the peasants coming forward to attack him may be being brought
forward rather than coming forward, and the whole thing could be a Swift
Boat style electoral gimmick.
But frankly, so far as I can see, Humala -- unlike Chavez or Morales --
treats the masses as voters and himself as the savior of the nation they
should elect.  There does not seem to be a broader popular mobilization
supporting his campaign.  Of course, it is not the fault of Humala or
any other INDIVIDUAL that Peru is not in the class-struggle situations
of Bolivia and Peru.  
Also, attention should be paid to Hugo Blanco's critique of Humala's
campaign, written from the standpoint that the masses need to be
organized to make the most of it.  This is not the analysis of an
old-style Trotskyist ideologue, centering on the issue of whether Humala
is "for" socialism, whatever that is exactly supposed to be, but on his
attitudes toward popular movements, the military, etc. -- including his
pretty clearly deliberate ambiguity about amnesty for military officers
guilty of crimes against the people.
My general feeling is that the tendency toward the left in Latin
American voting -- a continental process -- should be supported as part
of the broader strengthening of the hand of the continent against
imperialism and furthering tendencies toward unity of Latin American
countries, starting with them as they are.  So I would probably vote for
Humala this time,  a course Blanco does not seem to oppose.
And of course, we should be aware of the differences between Bolivia,
Venezuela, and potentially Ecuador where there are revolutionary
processes, and others (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) where the changes are
much more firmly within the framework of bourgeois political rule,
although even in Chile, some modest but significant progressive changes
are taking place.  
Blanco compares Humala with Gutierrez in Ecuador, and I picked up a
slight scent from this distance of the same thing.  But I think
conditions have evolved further since then, indicated for example by the
challenges that the government that followed Gutierrez's unsuccessful
course of capitulation to Washington.  My bet will be that Humala will
want to participate in the process of further Latin American economic
collaboration and other aspects of these trends.  If so, Washington's
trade deal will take another serious hit, among other things.  And he
may try to base himself on the military to make some changes.  One thing
for sure: If he wants to try to absolve the military of blame for the
crimes of the last several years (and I suspect he does) he can only
pull it off by seeming to align against Washington in the current
continental drift.
But all that is guesswork.  But the fact that Humala may or may not have
a shady record as an officer in his dealings with the people should not
tempt us to uglify Chavez's record retroactively to make Humala seem
more Chavez-like than he probably is.
Fred Feldman

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