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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 778
March 7, 2013

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A Posthumous Message to Hugo Chávez

Marta Harnecker

Dear Hugo,

Who would think that the man, full of vitality, who I met nearly 11 years ago in an airplane that flew us toward El Vigía, and who was a marvellous combination of humanity and political sense, one day would too soon pass away. A man with so much, so much energy and with so many, so many projects to carry out!

I know how time constrained you were, like a narrow shirt, when you had all the time in the world before you; I imagine your anguish when you knew you had only a few minutes to live.

Again and again I ask myself why that gale that swept you into history played you such a bad hand; why you lost this battle when to surrender was not in your plans.

I imagine how many thoughts passed through your mind before leaving: those moments in your life in which you were overwhelmed by the love of those dearest to you and by the immense love of your people and many other peoples of the world; the decisions that you took and that now, from a new perspective, perhaps you would not have taken; the processes that you would push more rapidly and those which you would impel more slowly; the desire to have more time to cure injuries you caused unintentionally.

You would have thought more than once about how important it is to build a collective political direction to assure the continuity of the project for which you have given your life. You would have asked for time to complete that task.

I am sure the reaction of your people is something that has to have comforted you enormously: to ascertain how they had matured during all the years that you were their guide, how they had achieved a degree of unity that never before had existed, how that whatever happens you will be present in their hearts forever.

Dear president friend, be certain that your life has not been in vain. Your words, your guidance, your exemplary devotion to the cause of the poor, will serve as a compass for your people and for the people of the world, and will be our best shield in defending us from those who seek to destroy that wonderful work you began to build.

I have always said that to measure the revolutionary Venezuelan process, it is less important to enumerate the revolutionary measures that have been adopted – they are many, no doubt – than to note how revolutionary consciousness has grown, and that work was your work! The process may have had many weaknesses – and you know with how much pain I burdened you in noting them, but what you have achieved with your people, nobody will ever be able to erase! •

Marta Harnecker
6 March 2013

Translation by Elizabeth Briemberg.

My First Meeting with Chavez
in June 2002

Marta Harnecker

I was extremely anxious as I went to my first interview: would I have what it takes? Would my interviewee understand the crudeness of some questions? Would the tape recorder work well? After meeting him and talking to him for a few minutes, all my concerns vanished. I found a down to earth, kind, self-critical, reflective man, with a great capacity to listen attentively to my remarks. He was passionate, with great inner strength. I particularly noticed his great human sensibility and his gregariousness. He adores his daughters and sons, and is very tender with them. He cannot live without direct and frequent contact with the humblest popular sectors, where he knows his greatest strength lies. He knows his people adore him, but he wants to transform that love into organization and autonomous development. He is an extraordinarily human leader. All these virtues do not mean he is without defects. He himself recognizes that he has a hard time working in a team, loses his patience easily, offends his collaborators, places too much trust in people whom he should not trust, is unable to organize his agenda in a rational way, and says more than he should: he says the whole truth when he could only say part of it.

Excerpt from Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution. Hugo Chávez Frías Talks to Marta Harnecker (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005).

Also see, Chávez's Chief Legacy.

Mensaje Póstumo a Hugo Chávez

Marta Harnecker
6 marzo 2013

¡Quién iba a pensar querido Hugo que el hombre lleno de vitalidad que conocí hace algo más de 10 años en un avión que nos conducía hacia el Vigía, y que combinaba maravillosamente humanidad y sentido político, iba a partir un día tan cercano a otra morada! ¡Un hombre con tanta, tanta energía y con tantos, tantos proyectos por realizar!

Se que el tiempo te apretaba como una camisa estrecha cuando tenías la eternidad por delante, me imagino tu angustia cuando supiste que tenía los minutos contados.

Me pregunto una y otra vez por qué ese vendaval que te llevo a la historia te jugó una tan mala pasada, por qué perdiste esta batalla cuando rendirte no estaba en tus planes.

Me imagino cuántas cosas pasaron por tu mente antes de partir: los momentos de tu vida en los que te sentiste invadido por el amor de tus seres queridos y por el inmenso amor de tu pueblo y muchos otros pueblos del mundo; las decisiones que tomaste y que ahora, en una nueva perspectiva, tal vez no tomarías; los ritmos de los procesos que acelerarías y aquellos que impulsarías más lentamente; las ganas de tener más tiempo para curar heridas que causaste sin querer.

Habrás pensado más de una vez en cuán importante es construir una dirección colectiva para asegurar la continuidad del proyecto por el cual has dado la vida. Habrás pedido tiempo para completar esa tarea.

Estoy segura que hay algo que tiene que haberte reconfortado inmensamente y es la reacción de tu pueblo: constatar cómo había madurado en todos esos años en que fuiste su conductor, cómo había logrado mucha mayor unidad de la que nunca antes había existido, cómo – ocurriese lo que ocurriese – tú estarías siempre presente en su corazón.

Querido presi amigo, ten la certeza que tu vida no ha sido en vano, tus palabras, tus orientaciones, tu entrega ejemplar a la causa de los pobres, servirán de brújula para tu pueblo y para los pueblos del mundo, y serán nuestro mejor escudo para defendernos de los que pretendan destruir esa maravillosa obra que tú empezaste a construir.

Yo siempre he dicho que hay que medir al proceso revolucionario venezolano no tanto por las medidas transformadoras adoptadas – que son muchas – sino por el crecimiento del sujeto revolucionario, y esa obra es ¡tu obra! El proceso podrá tener muchas debilidades – y tú sabes con cuánto dolor yo te abrumaba haciéndotelas notar – pero lo que tú has logrado con tu pueblo, eso ¡nadie lo podrá borrar jamás! •


#6 Anonymous 2013-03-08 09:13 EST
Re: Personality Cult
I agree with many of Robert Sweeny's criticism, although I do think that overall he was too harsh. I think that Venezuela has become more democratic under Chavez and that his government was better than the alternatives. And you can hardly blame him for using oil revenue to develop (although they should be trying much harder to diversify away from oil). Additionally, Robert implies that any attempts at socialism in Venezuela are purely top-down. This is simply untrue: there are also many grass-roots social movements.

However, personality cults are dangerous, even if the personality were perfect (which Chavez definitely was not). In a way I think that his death could be a good thing for Venezuela. If the grass-roots movements for socialism are able to continue without him, with his personality cult only a memory (perhaps like the memory of Simon Bolivar), and if there can continue to be governments that at least tolerate the social movements, then socialism in Venezuela will continue to be a possibility.

#5 Robert Sweeny 2013-03-08 08:03 EST
personality cult
This treatment of Chavez as a saint-like figure, who has forever and irremediably transformed politics in Latin America is not only a-historical it is positively dangerous for the development of a critical political movement capable of genuinely achieving a just and sustainable future for the people of Venezuela, Latin America and the world. Chavez consciously and systematically undermined respect for the rule of law in the name of the revolution and so doing repeated the fundamental error of the major revolutionary projects for the construction of socialism in the 20th century. Furthermore, his policies tied the development of his country to a completely unsustainable dependency on oil revenues. A policy that contributes to, rather than addresses the greatest challenge of the 21st century: climate change. I still believe that another world is possible, but it cannot be achieved by top-down, populist rhetoric and consciously divisive politics that demonizes and alienates large sections of the population, while elevating a single leader to supra-human status and thereby promoting a fundamentally anti-democratic praxis.

#4 Don Sutherland 2013-03-08 04:35 EST
Humanity loses a champion
As this century rolls on Companero Chavez will be remembered as one of the great leaders of working people and the poor. This is a beautiful and truthful short memoir that should help us all to learn more of what it takes to help masses of people start winning the tough and unrelenting struggle for the better life that has been denied them by capitalists and their system. Companero Chavez took hold of his moments of opportunity to struggle for and with the mass of humanity in his own country and across a whole continent. An inspiration!

#3 jRev. Fred Morris 2013-03-07 22:43 EST
Hugo Chavez' contribution to the peoples of Latin America
Hugo Chavez did more for all the people of Latin America than any other leader in history. He created a sense of real solidarity among all the peoples of the region, which has been plagued by the Divide and Conquer strategy of the Empires, Spanish, Portuguese, British and American. However, his legacy will remain. There is no going back.

#2 Nicole McGrath 2013-03-07 20:10 EST
thank you
Thank you Marta. It is good to know him through your words: Hugo Chavez had vision, determination and integrity, a great human being that challenged the world to reach his goals. The world needs more Hugo Chavez. Here in Canada, the media is shamelessly jumping on the urgent opportunity to invest in Venezuela's oil, as if it would help Venezuela, or to speed forward with our own oil exploration, as if it hasn't done enough damage here. The shameless rogue that stands in our country's leading position is all for an economic system fed by exploration investment at the expense of the living. What a terrible loss for a great leader departs too soon, when pathetic ones stand, greedy, vain, and shallow.

#1 Andy Knight 2013-03-07 19:07 EST
Bravo - what an excellent tribute to Chavez
Marta, it is so refreshing to read your positive words about Hugo Chavez. This counters the negative spin that the mainstream media has tried to put on what was truly a revolutionary moment in the Venezuelan polity.

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