Venezuela: Worldwide Impact of Upcoming Vote

“On August 15 We Storm the Winter Palace

A Contribution from Cuba by Celia Hart

[This article was dated July 9, 2004. It was translated for CubaNews by Ana Portela. Available in Spanish here.

[We have edited the translation of this article somewhat. Its style is often challenging. It is largely written in a poetic, philosophical, and rhetorical manner that is part of the Latin American revolutionary tradition, a style whose models date from the nineteenth century with such revolutionaries as the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar and the Cuban José Martí, a style similar to that more recently encountered in the writings of the Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos.

[Celia Hart is a Cuban revolutionary, daughter of Armando Hart, one of the leaders of the July 26 Movement that overthrew the Batista tyranny in 1959; for many years Armando Hart was minister of education in the Cuban revolutionary government. Celia Hart recently wrote an article repudiating the failed notion of “socialism in one country.” We hope to post that earlier article by Celia Hart on the Labor Standard web site soon. For now, because of the significance of the upcoming vote in Venezuela on August 15, we emphasize the point Celia Hart makes in this article—that the working class and poor peasant rank and file are mobilizing in committees—“electoral patrols and Popular Squadrons”—to make sure the August 15 referendum in Venezuela will be victorious and will serve the interests of the workers and peasants. Other versions of Celia Hart’s articles can be found here and here.]

Nothing happening today can compare to what may occur in Venezuela this coming month.

The world that is falling around us seems determined to recover, in a few days, the years lost in a collective amnesia. History is winking its eye at us to prevent us from letting this moment pass us by once again.

The brutal strengthening of the blockade of my country, using the constitution of the United States; the insecurity in Iraq, with its photographs, even overshadowing Dante and his demons; Sharon, his walls and Satanic arrogance; Kosovo ... Everything is turning Humanity into its own accomplice. The ethical decadence of imperialism is not giving this “homeland” [the United States] time enough to recover the pillars of the first blessed republic of Lincoln. The Statue of Liberty will soon take on the colors of illegal French immigration.

But…I think it was José Martí who said, “When there aren’t many decent men there are others who have the decency of many men. These men represent thousands, entire peoples, and all of human dignity.” Today, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela not only has to defend the people against legendary corruption; he also has the chance to save human dignity, which has been floundering in the world. Chávez and Venezuela must wash out the image of lies, atrocities, and degradation imposed on the Earth by one of the darkest and most sinister frauds on the planet, euphemistically called the “White House.”

Pitched against this, the social movements are becoming more radical and politicized from week to week. What will occur this August 15 will mark a new era for the left of the 21st century, this left that is gradually awakening from the silence of a cheap and tawdry European “socialism” and the evanescent cheers of neo-liberalism.

Soon it will achieve its first attempt at unity. We are now aware that “La Era vuelve a parir un Corazón” [The era is about to give birth to a Heart], as our Silvio [the Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez] entitled one of his songs.

“The time has come for our Spanish America to achieve its second and true independence,” José Martí declared [at the end of the nineteenth century]. In two short months [July and August], Venezuela will seek to overcome the past two centuries of naive submission. And, all of a sudden our [Latin American revolutionary] forefathers step forward to give advice and share experiences.

Chávez names them all as comrades in the fight. That’s what they are there for. That is the only way to keep them alive: To make their example useful.

Stupid imperialists! I repeat tirelessly “May God blind those willing to lose” [those heading for self-destruction].

Win or lose, Venezuela will seek to carry out a true social and political revolution on August 15—although in appearance this seems to be simply an electoral campaign. From a strict political point of view, a new Comandante Chávez has been awakened who moves rapidly to the left of the position previously held by President Chávez. This recall referendum will not only allow the Venezuelan people to lead the destinies of America, decidedly reaffirming their intentions, but also gives Chávez the possibility of organizing an urgent revolution while in power.

One of the indispensable intellectuals of my Homeland has said more than once, “The roads of America stretch out between the civic constancy of President Allende, on one side, and the revolutionary imprint of Che Guevara, on the other.” All right then, Comandante Chávez is at the intersection of these two beautiful tendencies.

Let’s stop here for a moment:

Chávez has a marvelous quantum duality. On the one hand he has been the president of this blessed world that has been the cleanest in classical electoral terms. Seven times he has placed himself on the ballot with an almost exaggerated civic-mindedness. Many comrades, including myself, were horrified when Chávez submitted to this recall referendum. “Of course this is a fraud! Why is he doing it?” But of course he had to offer himself. It was an offer expressing confidence that, even with imperialism against him, he could win in the balloting. It was the civic constancy of Salvador Allende tugging at his conscience.

There stands the President who swore loyalty to the Republic complete with his tricolor presidential sash. “Isn’t that enough?” No, for now the Comandante wearing a red beret appears, calling forth the sacred memories of Che Guevara. Ah, America! We have guards at every corner. It is the President who continues to be the Comandante.

On August 15, La Higuera will be victorious ... and La Moneda, all at once and always planted in the heart of only one man.

With this victory, like that of April 2002 [the failed coup against Chávez], this Homeland starts to form from the Rio Grande to the golden Patagonia, and so my children will learn the significance of the incomparable happiness of a world without borders.

Of course, as observed by many comrades in the scenario of combat, it is the organized population who can best defend the President in his battle. Civilian organizations take longer to discover the directions of change. The electoral patrols and Popular Squadrons made up of the workers and “the common people” in general are the real shields of Comandante Chávez to win in Santa Ines. It’s obvious: Chávez has given power to the people, men of dignity, for whom the Revolution was made.

In these two months, almost without realizing it, Chávez is passing all power to the soviets. The social and political movements of Venezuela are maturing from day to day. They are receiving the best lesson: these months will become a fertile period of revolutionary profundity.

I received a very serious diagnosis from Venezuela, from a colleague Sanabria, dated June 24 (El Militante). Aside from some differences of interpretation of the events, this study is an indispensable source of information and is a minute and unprejudiced observation of these actions. In the article he points out:

One difference with the current situation is that the electoral patrols, UBEs, and squads that are now rising up—and organizing hundreds and thousands of people, perhaps millions by now—have not yet completed their work, but are barely beginning. Perhaps a sectarian dogmatic could think that today’s movement is less important because it comes at the time of an electoral dispute and is born as a defensive action. If someone believes this, it only demonstrates a great shortsightedness and limited knowledge of class struggle.


An impressive class struggle is unfolding in Venezuela without having to mention the word “socialism.”

Here I can make an aside: I don’t like to say or hear that a country is “socialist”; I mentioned this in my work “Socialism in only one country and the Cuban revolution.” Socialism in only one country proved to be a complete theoretical failure. “Socialism” did not only break up in the USSR; the “country” broke up. Not even the word “socialism” was left in the phrase—or the name of the country. What does exist and remains in the world are socialist revolutions.

Consequently, comrades, don’t ask Chávez to build socialism in Venezuela in the name of I don’t know how many disfigured mummies. Let us save time and effort and set our sights for another second on the permanent revolution. Not only for the sake of the man who lived in Coyoacan [Leon Trotsky]. Before him, Bolívar did not only think of Venezuela. He could not think of Venezuela without looking over the rest of the humid and fiery land that marked his love and his audacity. He thought of Ecuador, thought of Peru. America was the Homeland. He only stopped to “oil the rifles.”

And José Martí? Paradigm of patriotism. But understood as a necessary bridge to the world.

The Cuban Revolutionary Party [founded by Martí while living in exile in the United States] was undoubtedly a new kind of party, made up in the majority by an exiled working class seeking freedom for the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Martí died trying to defend a “balance in the world” through our independence. It is mysterious and revealing. In America borders are ignored by our national heroes. In Europe they are set and braced. Even so, they moved with a single currency and speak in many languages. We could say that, in America, the desire for freedom was thought of even before other parts of the world. Permanent. Another detail: The dramatized poem, Abdala, by José Martí.

It goes as follows:

The mother love of Motherland
Is not a ridiculous love for land
Nor for the grass our feet crush
It is the invincible hatred for those who oppress her
It is the eternal rancor for those who attack her

I place this verse in block letters. The concept of Homeland for Martí is related solely to a social and political purpose. The Homeland is a live commitment against its enemies. Anything else is ridiculous.

It is not passive contemplation and adoration. It is combat and action...

Well, why waste more words ... “Homeland is Humanity.”

Chávez looks on through the eyes of the American Homeland, to start: He was criticized for his noble position over Bolivia and the sea. If Chávez draws on the example of the Liberator [Simón Bolívar], how could he remain indifferent to the demands of a people whose country is named after Bolívar? They don’t understand us because they have gone through history stealing borders and putting up walls. Let these lands be! America will surprise us.

Then, as I see it, what Chávez can do in a revolutionary Venezuela is follow the course of Bolívar. Of course, in this century. A revolution pregnant with Projects and Missions for the people will triumph in Venezuela. A Revolution!

This time Bolívar will plow in fertile land in all of South America, and here lie the many Vietnams called for by that great man [Che Guevara] who hated borders.

It is perhaps the right time to beat the drums of Revolution in Latin America and jump over the hurdles. Chávez belongs to America. At times I think that many colleagues want Chávez to show his passport of being a socialist, to measure up to certain standards.

It is absurd! This passport is shown another way. Imperialism corners itself all alone. Chávez will triumph in the most radical process that we can imagine—but for America, for the oil-exporting countries, for the world. Or are we going to fall again into the trap of Socialism in only one country?

Of course, anything can happen. Cuba [in 1959] is not the same as Venezuela [in 2004]. And during the past 45 years Bush has fought his battles with math and sought ways to avoid military service. (I don’t know when he began to misunderstand the Bible.)

These are new times; there are more of us in the cart. I doubt they can blockade Venezuela. It would be funny to see New York with blackouts. Perhaps it would be a contribution to wake up the working class of the United States.

Chávez can become an Ernesto Guevara in power.

As for socialist revolution, amen to the indispensable role of men who constitute its objective expression.

I don’t know, and it isn’t even important, whether Chávez has a Marxist philosophy. The ideas of the old bearded man are objective. They are on the margin of our hotheads. I’ll give you a simple example: Although you may not know the law of universal gravity of Isaac Newton, don’t let the glass cup fall, because you will undoubtedly lose it.

In social practice it is the same.

That is why I think that any transformation in Venezuela should only come from Chávez. I don’t like to flatter personalities, but I think that in this case a few comments are necessary:

In America many attractions should be found in one person to push forward a task of popular character. It is not a cult of personality but that we have the battles for our independence deep rooted. That is not what happened in Europe.

The military leader, the romantic poet, and personal charisma are a subconscious part of acceptance of our leaders. The technocrats, no matter if they are honest and wise, don’t attract us. If you want, I can give the most recent example at hand in my country ...

Chávez was imprisoned for dreaming of a different Venezuela, and because of his race, his religion, his patriotism framed, certainly, in an exemplary internationalism (America, the Group of the 77, etc.); it is a mirror of the best men of this part of the world and a constant evocation of our recent past of glory. Any social change in my lands should be accompanied by the dream of an American Homeland and national sovereignty. A revolution in these lands is not done without these sustaining forces.

To aspire for a radical revolution in Venezuela, even a socialist revolution, will only be possible with the thoughts and popular spirit of its President or, simply, it cannot be done. I remember that something similar happened in the Chile of Allende. We must hurry to understand the social and historical context of this part of the world or we will fall into the same mistakes of the past.

Sometimes I fear, in the face of so much rhetoric suffered and not understood, that many communist comrades are unaware of the responsibilities we face. The only options for all socialist parties, including those of Venezuela, is to wholeheartedly back Chávez. Let’s not let the same thing happen again! [that is, the degeneration of the Russian revolution under Stalin]. Let the ghost of the “Communist Manifesto” come out shining this time and banish from memory the ghosts of Stalinism and Stalin’s warped theories. Those, I confess, fill me with panic.

The European socialist practice silently set the same trap for us. They got us so used to the manual that we let events pass us by, waiting for a phrase from the classics that would stimulate us to action. I think that something like this happened in my beloved Buenos Aires ... on a December...[that is, after the mass uprising of December 2001].

In the forward movement of progressive ideas, the Venezuelan people now hold the reins. Whatever happens in Venezuela will give strength to the ideas of socialism. Not because Chávez is a socialist, but because there, in those ballot boxes, they will be counting Karl Marx among others. Because imperialism, with its continuing stupidities, will be forced to radicalize this process. Because, already, Venezuela is a country that has “nothing to lose but its chains,” to quote Marx and Engels. It has a world to win.

I’ll list a few curious details that illustrate the mixture of Homeland and Revolution in my lands.

Fidel Castro was not a member of the Popular Socialist Party [the Stalinist, pro-Soviet Communist Party in Cuba in the 1950s]. He did not say that his program was socialist. He was, however, the most communist of them all, of absolutely all the revolutionaries of my country. He had the ideas of Marx and Lenin so ingrained that he did not have to stop and read or quote to explain that he was promoting a socialist revolution. When this young man attacked the Moncada [fortress] he had read the socialist ideas, undoubtedly, but that didn’t make Fidel a socialist because of his reading of the socialist classics. He was a socialist because of his understanding that it was the specific course the Cuban people needed to achieve justice. An event that didn’t sit well with the PSP. The socialist revolution and communist ideas are a means to achieve happiness (the best means), but not the end.

The mention made by a colleague in reference to my previous article in reference to Che confirms this suspicion that tightens my heart. To say that Che was Stalinist because he said it in a certain context is like saying that our club won the football game because a specialist chose it as favorite. Che could say what he wanted about Papa Stalin! Che chose a communist life not by reading the difficult and revised texts of Stalin. Certainly not. He was called to this life by the illiterates, the poor, the disappeared children of America that he learned of in a unique manner, mounted on a motorcycle as a young man.

In Mexico, when Fidel and Che met, I don’t know if they talked much of Marxism and theory. What I do know is that at that very moment two of the most authentic communists on the Planet Earth shook hands. Also, I don’t like to say that Che was a “Trotskyist” or any other “ist.” What does please me to repeat is that he tried to carry out the permanent revolution and, perhaps, without studying this theory, he understood its importance and was quick to invite America to become many Vietnams. I am angry then, when someone calls Monje a communist: Failing to understand the purpose of Che and the reach of his struggle reproves Monje from the most elemental course of Marxism. Lenin, Che, Fidel are authentic leaders because they know how to lay bridges between theory and actual social practice.

In the same vein, I think that without Chávez there is no revolution in Venezuela, and that if it is not an authentic radical revolution—to avoid saying socialist—it will never be a revolution.

Let us look up. Venezuela is the legitimate Red Army. On August 15 the Winter Palace is taken.

No doubt, not a single argument or little phrase taken from Das Kapital could prove the contrary. Yes. He is a mulatto, with the poetic language of the nineteenth century. Yes, he is a Christian. He believes profoundly in God. But continues to be now the creature most capable of changing the destinies of the Revolution in the world. History would not forgive us now for betraying Che in the name of communism!

The flag of the hammer and sickle was exiled from Europe. In a unique and symbolic act, Diego Rivera and Don Lázaro Cárdenas received it and buried it in that little house [in Coyoacán]. There in the first border of my Greater Homeland. The ideas of Marxism-Leninism traveled with it. Left behind was the USSR; perhaps, nothing more is left; the October Revolution came here, appealed to by Venezuela...

Now we are called upon. For several years we have been invited to watch wars of conquest and anachronistic and incoherent speeches, towers that crumble, children torn to pieces, prisoners humiliated. Sparked by coca cola, cigarettes, and flashy cars.

In August, the Internet will turn happily to the left and we will witness the taking of power by the people. Let us join our forces to this battle. Let us form international brigades to support the Red Army and its chief from our countries and our keyboards. Today, all the communists of the world should hold a Venezuelan passport. If I had the gracefulness of Cinderella and a fairy godmother came to me, that is what I would ask for, to live through this revolution where my most sacred dreams fuse into one. The possible outbreak of a true world revolution, sung in Spanish, taking up the side of the poor.

The specter that was haunting Europe [in the opening sentence of the 1848 Communist Manifesto] has bought itself a pretty hat and is going around again, now haunting the Caribbean: Let her be.

Something seems to be forgotten: What if we lose?

It doesn’t matter, Chávez has already won. If we lose the President, we still have the Comandante. Fidel did not win in the Moncada. Six years later the most authentic revolution of the West triumphed. The Venezuelan people will not need the Sierra Maestra nor the Granma ... There is one difference ... Fidel did not have us.

Cuba walked alone in America. Unfortunately there seemed to be an unmovable wall. The fall of the ill- named socialism finally allows us to unite devouring borders, languages, and religious dogmas disguised with words from Lenin.

Now we can see them all: Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Che, together with Bolívar and Martí, being the first to support Comandante Chávez ... Let us sit down together, united, jubilantly singing the “International” in a thousand languages. That is what I propose for our August 15.

Workers of the world unite!