[Marxism] How not to write about Venezuela

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 27 11:33:50 MDT 2007

In the July-August International Socialist Review, the theoretical 
journal of the state-capitalist International Socialist Organization, 
there’s an article by Lee Sustar titled “What does Chávez have in store 
for Venezuela?” He asks rhetorically if Chávez is “correct in his recent 
statements that the ideas of Marx and Lenin are outdated, and that 
private property has to be preserved in a socialist Venezuela?” He also 
writes “Chávez himself, quoting the German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg 
out of context, declared that trade unions should be subordinated to the 
socialist party–i.e., the PSUV.”

When I asked Sustar to provide references for these assertions, he 
replied with respect to the first: “It was on Alo Presidente, which you 
can hear online.” I have not been successful in tracking this down. He 
also provided a link to an article on aporrea.org by Miguel Angel 
Hernández that began with this quote from Chavéz:

     El Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) no tomará las 
banderas del marxismo-leninismo porque es una tesis dogmática que ya 
pasó y no está acorde con la realidad de hoy”…“tesis como la de la clase 
obrera como el motor del socialismo y de la revolución están obsoletas”… 
“El trabajo hoy es otra cosa, es distinto, está la informática y la 
telemática, y Carlos Marx ni siquiera podía soñar con estas cosas.

Roughly translated, this says:

     The PSUV doesn’t call itself “marxist-leninist” because it is a 
dogmatic thesis that has passed and doesn’t accord with the reality of 
today…the thesis of the working class as the motor of socialism and the 
revolution is obsolete…the worker of today is another thing, is 
distinct, is involved with information and telecommunications technology 
and Karl Marx could not have dreamed of these things.

Maybe curiosity killed the cat, but I am dying to know what was between 
the ellipses in Chavéz’s quoted remarks. It also might be possible to 
make a distinction between Sustar’s characterization of Chavéz saying 
that Marx and Lenin were obsolete and his actual words, namely that “The 
PSUV doesn’t call itself “marxist-leninist” because it is a dogmatic 
thesis that has passed and doesn’t accord with the reality of today.” 
Calling oneself “Marxist-Leninist” is pretty stupid in fact.

The other problem is in trying to find a smoking gun that proves that 
Chavéz is some kind of phony socialist based on what he says about Marx 
or Lenin. If he can be judged on this litmus test, then all the glowing 
references to Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg et al in his speeches should get 
him an early parole for good behavior. Now, I don’t want to try to 
convince the ISO comrades that they are taking the wrong approach–a 
daunting task to say the least–but you simply can’t judge Hugo Chavéz on 
this basis. It is a talmudic approach to politics. When you sit around 
poring over texts in order to establish the sanctity of a political 
figure, you are bordering on the theological.


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