Hugo Chavez is dead; the Venezuelan president died of cancer, after a two-year battle with the disease, on Tuesday; he was 58. The self-styled socialist revolutionary of the people, particularly the poor, led Venezuela for 14 years. Chavez had a vision for his people, common to all messianic leaders; its policies, however, led to corruption, conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism, and the second highest crime rate in the world. Many articles will be written now, some in glowing terms, others not. Here is an article that George Jochnowitz wrote before Chavez's death (only the last paragraph has been changed to account for Chavez's death); it's worth reading because it shows Chavez as he truly was and likely as he wanted to be remembered: a good Marxist.
by George Jochnowitz
Hugo Chavez is a good Marxist. That’s why he believes in a world where everybody thinks alike. Marx looked forward to the day when the “final stage of communism” would come and the state would wither away, since without economic differences people would no longer disagree with each other. Like any good Marxist leader, Chavez runs a state with no opposition. According to the New York Times in a news story entitled “Chavez Forces Venezuela to Contemplate a Void” (June 12), “President Hugo Chavez is the undisputed, 24-7, one-man show of Venezuelan politics, its be-all and end-all. He makes laws on his own, with the stroke of a pen. He expropriates buildings and businesses with a wave of his hand. His face smiles on billboards and posters.” Those are strong words for the New York Times to use, but they reflect reality.
Chavez, a good Marxist, is actively pursuing a policy of friendship with Iran, as all Marxists have done ever since Khomeini turned Iran into a theocracy. On February 9, 2007, the Associated Press ran a story under the headline “Iran, Venezuela to begin direct flights.” In the article we read, “Relations between the two countries have tightened under Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are united in their antagonism to the U.S. government.”
They are united in more ways than one. Hugo Chavez, like all Marxists leaders, has allied himself with radical Islam. Chavez, who called President Bush “el Diablo,” has always been in total agreement with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, who refers to America as the Great Satan. Iran, in turn, has officially recognized Chavez as an ally. The August 1, 2006, issue of the official English-language newspaper China Daily printed a news story entitled “Chavez receives Iran’s highest award.” We learn from this news item that “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chavez with the Iranian Republic Medal in a ceremony at Teheran University.” The medal was awarded to show gratitude to Chavez for his “support for Iran’s stance on the international scene, especially its opposition to a resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency.” The resolution in question was a decision to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez talks about helping the poor, but what he really wants to do is to end freedom and bring about a Marxist society. That is why the National Assembly of Venezuela has granted him free rein to rule by presidential decree for 18 months. The purpose is ostensibly to accelerate changes in society. Chavez doesn’t need free rein. The National Assembly supports him. He has asked for free rein in order to end democracy and civil society. He is doing what Marx advocated.
Marx was opposed to the idea of civil society. In his essay “On the Jewish Question,” he said, “Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and is revealed as such in its pure form as soon as civil society has fully engendered the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money” [emphasis in original]. But these words did not sufficiently express Marx’s disgust with the idea. In the same essay, he went on to say, “It is from its own entrails that civil society ceaselessly engenders the Jew.”
The Marxist vision of the future implies the realization of a society without disagreement and, therefore, the end of history. That is why thought reform is a considered a desirable and realizable goal. Those societies that have attempted to reshape human nature have been noted for their ruthlessness. All of the cruelty of Communist states, all of the evils committed by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, are implicit in the Marxist idea of the withering away of the state.
Lenin, in Chapter 5 of The State and Revolution, says that “The State will be able to wither away completely . . . when people have become accustomed to observe the fundamental rules of social life, and their labor is so productive, that they voluntarily work according to their ability. . . . Until the 'higher' phase of Communism arrives, the Socialists demand the strictest control, by society and by the State, of the quantity of labour and the quantity of consumption” [emphasis in original]. Lenin (who used the word “Socialism” to mean “Communism”) sounds hypocritical and contradictory: strictest control seems a peculiar way to arrive at a stage where there is no control. Unfortunately, there is no contradiction. The “strictest control” called for by Lenin was needed because human nature would have to be altered in order to produce the society he envisioned, otherwise people might not “voluntarily work according to their ability.” Indeed, such a stateless world would be unchanging and without strife, or else government would have to reappear.
Thought reform was an explicit Chinese goal in the days of Mao Zedong and remains so today, although the words themselves [sixiang gaizao in Chinese] have fallen out of favor. Chairman Mao claimed that all power came from the barrel of a gun, but he ruled not only through force but through something akin to divine right: he was revered not only as an individual but as the symbol of the inevitable triumph of Communism.
The extreme form of Islam espoused by Ahmadinejad is like the world envisioned by Marx, a world where everyone thinks alike. It is a world that fears freedom and diversity. Chavez is on the road to making his country another North Korea—a place where everyone will obey the Dear Leader. China and Russia have embraced capitalism but have not renounced Marxism. They too are friends of Ahmadinejad. The Marxist-Islamic alliance is alive and well.
Chavez has died of cancer. Will a new Venezuelan president rethink Venezuela's commitment to Ahmadinejad? We can only hope.
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay appeared in in the algemeiner on June 13, 2012; an earlier version of this essay appeared on David Brumer's blog on June 16, 2007. This post can originally be found on George Jochnowitz. It is republished here with the permission of the author.