Turba nuestra (o el otro bicentenario) / Eduardo Febres

Our Mob (Or, The Other Bicentenary)

                  [“El Caracazo, 1989” by AVN/Francisco Solórzano]

There’s nothing progress and order fears more than the mob. A belligerent force with no visible head that moves with the infinite power of what no longer fears dying. And in Venezuela, a divinity from which saints emanate.

No one prays literally to the mob: one prays to Ismaelito, to Crude Oil, to Isabel the Kid, who didn’t emerge from the mob, but whom the mob of 1989 spread like the rumor of a coup d’état.

As well as the Our Chávez, which is a product of that mob and has been rejected and prayed to.

Routine. Like the poet Dalton said: “When revolution appears on the horizon the old cauldron of religions heats up.”

What isn’t prayed for to the mob as an entity, is attributed to it as power. The mob of 1989 is the magma that broke the floor of the country’s old story, to eventually solidify itself as a new narrative landscape. That’s why the anti-Chavista imaginary drools at the possibility that the mob might reappear and break what’s been established by the revolution: because all of that was made with the symbolic capital the mob bequeathed it.

Anti-chavismo was wagering on the mob by any means necessary in 2014, and we all know how that turned out. And that’s the possibility that Nicolás Maduro conjures with his so-called Shake-Up (one of the names of the mob) when talking about about political restructuring that fulfills one of Henrique Capriles Radonski’s electoral promises from 2012, to adjust the prices of various regulated products and to announce the imminent increase in the price of gasoline.

Calm down, ladies and gentlemen: there will be no shake-up (no mob), because I’m the one doing the shake-up. No one’s about to come down from the hills because we’re the ones who’ll climb them.

Very clever, but nothing new: the specter of the shake-up has more power in Venezuela than any political party. And nothing explains the economic politics of the Bolivarian revolution (and many other things) better than reading it as an a recurring attempt of that shadow, that seen from a different perspective seems insatiable.

In order to invoke the mob, the aristocrat Leopoldo López chose the most forced and least representative milestone of the bicentennial of the first heroic mob: that 12th of February of 1814, when Venezuelan patriots had their only moment of glory against the armies of servants and slaves who, allied with José Tomás Boves, took over the entire country that year (by the way, the same year the government chooses as its emblem, although Hugo Chávez was thinking of something else).

2014 and 1989 are points of no return in our history when the indisputable protagonist is the mob. But not just any mob. It’s the mob of the people who make everything in this country. The second meaning of the mob [turba] explains it well: “flammable fossil made of residual vegetables accumulated in swampy areas (...) which when burned produces thick smoke” (Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy). A mob that splits history in two isn’t just a group of malcontents on Twitter, hormones and paramilitary friends: it’s the union by contagion of the people that make things move: the fuel of history’s motor.

That also explains the congenital failure of anti-Chavismo in relation to the mob. Two hundred years ago Boves had been in Caracas for two months and he had already recruited the beggars and bums to take them out to work on the plantations, he had given the best positions to blacks, mulattos and “people of color” and he was already intimidating the Spanish crown as well as the flowering English capitalists.

That man (who had yet to read Simón Rodríguez) understood before Simón Bolívar that “the material force resides in the mass and morals of the movement,” and he interpreted better than anyone the desires that were being expressed in a chaotic and dispersed manner by that mob that accompanied him.

Not very different from what Bolívar accomplished in his time, and what the Bolivarian revolution has done in these fifteen years.

And what do you think the 2014 uprising would have accomplished if it had advanced towards the appropriation of the private instead of the destruction of the public?

Only the mob knows.

{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 17 September 2014 }

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