Votar a pesar de todo / Héctor Silva Michelena

To Vote Despite Everything

I remember that Laureano Vallenilla Lanz (1870-1936) wrote in one of his two fundamental books—drunk from A. Comte, seasoned with Spencer, Le Bon and, coming to our America, in Alberdi, Sarmiento and Martí—saying that “as social phenomena, revolutions fall under the control of a sociological determinism in which weak human will barely plays a role; and because war has been, now and in all countries at all times, one of the most powerful factors in the progressive evolution of humanity.” Vallenilla Lanz sustained that our War of Independence was a civil war, “which in no way diminishes our liberators’ glory. ‘Every war between men,’ said Victor Hugo, ‘is a war between brothers. The only distinction one can make is between a just war and an unjust war.’ Since ages ago, humanity considers most just those revolutions whose goal is the emancipation of a people and the encouragement of human dignity.” Such were Don Laureano’s bases for his thesis of the Necessary Gendarme, or the Good Tyrant, which justified his era’s regime: the brutal dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez.

I ask: does history repeat itself? To vote: despite everything, why? Let us look at two aspects, the political and the economic. In Venezuela there now reigns what I once called Stalinist pre-fascism, as opposed to the Left. As the regime unfolds: we are in the clear presence of an early XXI century Bonapartism or Caesarism. It cannot be identical to the type studied by Marx and Engels, although it does have its similarities. It is the type of government in which Legislative Power, the key to democracy due to its being a primary power, is shorn of any authority; and in which all powers are subordinated beneath a great charismatic personality that situates itself as the direct representative of the nation, as a guarantor of public order and as an impartial arbiter facing the contending interests of the social strata. This is proved by the ineffable recall referendum, an advanced form of democracy, which is consecrated in the 1999 Constitution but remains in the clutches of Executive Power, by way of the Electoral Power and the Constitutional Chamber. The latter usurped the functions of the other Supreme Court chambers, transforming the event into a simple plebiscite.

Authentic referendums functioned under de Gaulle, during the V republic, for the purpose of revealing the supremacy of the people, who voted in favor of or against the General. In modern times the plebiscite is used in exceptional circumstances, beyond constitutional foresight. It is now a recourse for staying in power, a form of political adhesion. Does this not describe the upcoming regional elections? Important Venezuelan lawyers agree, including the former Supreme Court magistrate Hildegard Rondón de Sansó who, after recognizing the advances in the Constitution and Chávez’s accomplishments, admits that “one of the characteristics of PDV (Petróleos de Venezuela) is precisely the inexistence of a Judicial Power…and also the subjection to political power, which is a constant, since the structure imposes the designation of unqualified judges.” Regarding populism: its short-term vision, its exacerbated public expenditure and the volatile nature of oil prices have already been discussed by myself and by Gustavo García. Despite everything, I will vote against Chávez. Who takes away…

{ Héctor Silva Michelena, TalCual, 27 September 2004 }

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