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Chávez still inspires us to change the world

As a misinformation war intensifies against Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution we must never stop defending – and celebrating – the real legacy of the late Hugo Chávez.

Last year, on this day, Venezuela’s president Chávez passed away at 58 years old. His death was felt around the world, representing a huge loss for all supporters of social justice.

In Venezuela, for eight days in a row, millions of his supporters arrived en masse to mourn at his casket and pay their respects.

Across his own region the tributes reflected how Chávez also played a leading role in the transformation of Latin America into a progressive continent.

Globally, many world leaders attended the memorial ceremonies in his honour, including 33 presidents. The global impact was also shown when the United Nations honoured Chávez in a special session in the general assembly led by secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, who said: “It is an honour to pay tribute to the memory and the work of Hugo Chavez, who was one of those leaders who made a difference in his country, the region and the world.”

He recalled Chávez’s “sense of solidarity with the most vulnerable and his commitment to improve the life of the most underprivileged” and how this “resulted in a fierce attachment to the millennium development goals.”

This last sentence also outlines the chief reason for this outpouring of grief and the breadth of tributes paid around the world, namely that Chávez showed a better world was not only possible but could start to be constructed.

Specifically, as the media onslaught against Venezuela today seeks to rewrite Chávez’s legacy, we should remember how this was most of all shown in changing the lives of millions of Venezuelans for the better.

As the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign statement put it at the time, he “led the progressive transformation of Venezuela by lifting millions of its citizens from poverty – standing against social exclusion, marginalisation and institutional repression – thereby restoring to them a long-overdue dignity,” meaning that “under president Chávez’s leadership, his government’s policies improved the life of ordinary Venezuelans as no other government had ever done in the history of that south American nation.”

The control of Venezuela’s huge natural resources was placed back in the hands of the people and the wealth used to improve the lives of millions, meaning that for the first time Venezuela’s poor majority received medical attention when they needed it, alongside free education, housing and social security.

Primarily for this reason – for showing another world is possible and that political will could tackle social inequality and poverty – his loss was also felt throughout the British labour movement, struggling against a renewed wave of disastrous neoliberalism.


TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady explained that “during his 14 years as president Hugo Chávez oversaw the implementation of an impressive and highly progressive programme, lifting millions out of poverty and providing citizens with healthcare and education services at a level unknown in Venezuelan history,” adding that “the new labour law passed last May after popular consultations across the country marked a huge step forward in workers’ rights.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey added that Chávez “embodied and represented a people who refused to accept that grinding poverty and social exclusion could be tolerated while massive wealth was stockpiled in the hands of a few.”

Another reason that Chávez’s legacy must be defended is that his ideas and actions did not only change Venezuela for the better and inspire many struggling for a better world internationally – they also helped to spur similar movements and governments across Latin America.

In a huge reawakening of a continent rejecting US-led interventions and seeking to chart its own independent course of development, this progressive wave has transformed Latin America.

As Ban Ki Moon put it: “As the process of regional integration progresses the key role that president Chávez (had) in promoting the unity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean will be present in everyone’s minds.”

Finally, when looking at and defending Chávez’s legacy we should also remember that at every stage he faced huge opposition from Venezuela’s old ruling elite that had lost its economic and political privilege – and additionally from the United States.

Accompanied by an international campaign of media and misrepresentation that was often echoed here in the British media, the explicit aim was to oust his government, no matter how many times he was elected by the Venezuelan people.

Now, as the recent wave of violence from extreme, anti-democratic elements of Venezuela’s opposition has shown, Venezuela’s current President Nicolas Maduro like Chávez before him faces attempts to undermine his presidency. Again, the ultimate aim is to oust the government.

A year ago the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign stated that “Hugo Chávez will continue to symbolise, for decades to come, the aspirations of dignity, sovereignty, social justice and a better life for people all around the world.”

As fellow revolutionary leader Bolivian President Evo Morales has said, president Chávez is more alive than ever in that he “will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples that struggle for their liberation.”

Now we must not only celebrate this legacy – and defend it against attempts to rewrite it by enemies of Venezuela’s progressive change – but redouble our solidarity efforts with democracy and social progress as Venezuela faces new onslaughts from anti-democratic enemies of the Bolivarian revolution.


  1. Carl Stoll says:

    Chavez still inspires us bla bla bla

    Empirical psychological research has reached robust conclusions concerning the limits of rational discussion, i.e. the fact that reason and evidence are not effective in making people change their minds concerning things about which they care deeply. Brain scans made of people while they discuss politics show that the portions of their brain devoted to problem-solving are idle, while the portions devoted to emotional issues and loyalty are going full blast.
    It has been determined that people pay attention to the facts and think logically only in the following circumstances:
    • When they are anxious
    • When they are discussing issues that affect their personal fates very profoundly
    • When they have been educated to revere the truth.

    What I find especially worrying — not to say terrifying — in this connection is that “things about which they care deeply” and “issues that affect their personal fates very profoundly” ARE TREATED IN DIAMETYRICALLY OPPOSITE MANNERS. I have not yet had time to explore the unsettling implications of these findings.
    In any case, a prominent feature of irrational, emotionally loaded and loyalty-driven thinking is a brutal indifference for facts, and that is exactly what we encounter in this mind-boggling hagiography.
    I grant that Chavez has the inestimable merit of having challenged US imperialism and its puppets in the domestic oligarchy in a decided and unequivocal manner. This is indeed an indelible mark of glory.
    However Chavez’ record abounds in episodes and policies that reflect ignorance, fanaticism, iniquity and callousness. I shall list only a few:
    1. His economic policies repeat ad nauseam all the stupidest blunders of bureaucratic state socialism: a drive by state monopolies to grab economic power regardless of efficiency, monopolies inefficiently governed by corrupt patronage where promotions are based on political loyalty instead of productive work. This occurred to the great detriment of economic efficiency. It also provoked a brain drain. The most primitive and retrograde of all statist policies, i.e. price controls, was applied indiscriminately. All this reflects complete ignorance of everything that economic planners learned in the Soviet Union and the Soviet-bloc countries between 1923 and 1989, and complete ignorance of all the progress made in perfecting feedback mechanisms in economic organisations throughout the 20th century! This crude bungling constitutes nothing less than a crime against the Venezuelan people!
    2. Gross contempt for the rule of law: Chavez ordered the summary arrest and extradition to Colombia (handed directly to the sinister DAS!) of Colombian political activists without allowing recourse to the Venezuelan courts, i.e. no habeas corpus, no review of pending charges in Colombia, no examination of likelihood of torture.
    In connection with the predatory activities of Chavez’ state monopolies, illegal manoeuvres to deprive foreign companies (specifically a Swiss fertiliser manufacturer) of its assets including intellectual property, by use of straw men, phony accounting records, arbitrary administrative decisions, etc., all in gross violation of the investment treaty between Venezuela and Switzerland that guarantee equal treatment to foreign firms, and likewise in gross disregard of the rule of law.
    3. According to several accounts, top officials of the Chavez regime are involved in large-scale trafficking of cocaine and are wanted by Interpol.
    4. Venezuela’s strategic position necessitates cooperation with other adversaries of US imperialism. Accordingly Chavez’ alliances with Cuba and Iran are per se not open to criticism. However Chavez’ attitude to both countries (both of them extremely repressive police states) was completely uncritical. He even encouraged religious proselytism in Venezuela by Persian religious fanatics. This is extremely reckless behaviour considering Islam’s lugubrious record of fomenting irrational behaviour, instigating sectarian strife and propagating hate speech wherever it manages to establish a beachhead.
    This dim-witted hagiography extrapolates the worst traditions of the political left. It is a soporific feel-good collection of third-rate clichés. It is short on facts and long on twaddle. This kind of primitive malarkey should be banned.

  2. Stuart Goodall says:

    Love the final sentence! Must be ironic, with the quaint word “malarkey”, and the injunction that an example of free speech “should be banned”. (By whom?) Either that, or that the writer is a fascist – and such people never do irony.

  3. Viva Chavez says:

    It’s a shame that people so easily believe propaganda from the anti-democratic opposition in Venezuela, the right-wing media and those hungry for ‘regime change’ from the US on so many issues to do with Venezuela.
    Of course, problems exist in Venezuela, but the recent election victories of Maduro’s coalition in this context show that the population trusts the government to provide answers to them. Unsurprising really, in that it’s the very same government which has delivered incredible social achievements, from providing free health care and education to millions for the first time, to bringing millions of people out of poverty.

    Indeed, even in times of economic difficulty, last year poverty and unemployment continued to fall.

    It should be left to the Venezuelan people to decide if their model has run its course when they cast their votes at the next set of elections.

    In the meantime we should respect the recent election results and the will of the people and reject the violence of anti-democratic elements of the neo-liberal opposition who are preparing the ground for a coup that would benefit only the elites

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