Hugo Chavez never trusted the working class, instead he and his closest friends were the ones who ruled. Chavez made alliances with the progressive bourgeoisie and even used state police to crush strikes of workers. In the last years his popularity started to decline, Venezuela was not socialist and the people waited 14 years for socialism. Hugo Chavez never gave them socialism, he kept all the power in the hands of his state bureaucracy!
But there are also good things to say about him. When he got elected in 1999, democracy was only something for the rich and the elite. Venezuela was a very poor nation were 80% of all people lived in poverty. Many workers never voted because they hated the politicians who were in service of capitalism. Venezuela used to be a close ally of American imperialism. During the cold war, Venezuela was ruled by many right-wing leaders who supported the USA against the USSR.
In 1992, 38 year old Hugo Chavez was a military officer. He was very much opposed to the right-wing government of Venezuela. In February 1992, Chavez and a few officers tried a coup against the ruling president Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez. This president promised to oppose US imperialism during his election. But after he got power Pérez did the opposite, he supported right-wing politics and betrayed his anti-imperialist rhetoric. When the workers protested against this betrayal, the right-wing president ordered the army to shot at them. More then 3.000 workers were killed under the Pérez government. This is why Hugo Chavez tried to overthrow the Venezuelan president in 1992!
Yet his coup failed. Too few soldiers supported Hugo Chavez. After a few fights he surrendered to the government. Chavez was allowed to speak on television and told the Venezuelan people that he did it for them. This was the first time in Venezuelan history that there was a man who did something for the common people. His coup may have failed but his popularity with the poor started to rise!
In 1994, Chavez was released from prison by the centrist government of Rafael Antonio Caldera Rodríguez. Hugo Chavez was not allowed to return to the military, but this gave him time to work on his political movement. In 1997 he founded the Fifth Republican Movement, to help him with the presidential election in 1999. The Fifth Republican Movement was the first left-wing populist party to gain massive support among the people. Unlike the dogmatic Communist Party of Venezuela, the Fifth Republican Movement used a mixture of populism, Venezuelan nationalism and left-wing idealism!
December 8, 1999. The date that shocked the elite of Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, the officer that tried a failed coup, became president of the Republic of Venezuela. Many knew that the poor and the middle class were the ones who gave Chavez their vote. The rich and the capitalists feared his leftist rhetoric and in secret they made plans to remove him!
Chavez first three years were moderate, his revolutionary rhetoric was strong but his economic politics were social democratic and center-left. Fiscally he remained a conservative and a supporter of the Roman Catholic Church. But his charisma and populism made him a loved man by many poor people. He reformed the constitution of Venezuela and gave more power to woman and indigenous people. The ruling class was not happy with this left-wing president. So with the help of the private media, they lanced numerous attacks against Chavez. They called him a dictator and a supporter of communism. This was enforced by Chavez's friendship with Fidel Castro of Cuba!
On April 11 2002, anti-Chavez military generals started a coup. The private media in Venezuela supported this coup and blamed Chavez for all things that were wrong in Venezuela. Pedro Francisco Carmona Estanga, was put into power by the ruling class. But the poor and the workers were not happy about this. They started to demonstrate and called for the return of Hugo Chavez. The private media called the pro-Chavez demonstrators ''scum'' and ''violent''. But in reality they were the ones who were wrong and criminal. In the end, the military became afraid of the rising anger towards them. So Hugo Chavez was put back into power and Carmona was forced to flee to the USA, who supported him from the beginning!
After the failed right-wing coup, Hugo Chavez became more radical and no longer trusted the old bourgeoisie and their private media. The president started to use state media to counter the private media, who were anti-socialist and anti-Chavez. Venezuela has eight television networks. Only one of them is owned by the state, so the media in Venezuela is mostly private owned and 2/3 of them are anti-Chavez!
In 2006 the nation was renamed into the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela. Simon Bolivar was a national hero and a symbol for the ideology of Hugo Chavez. While Chavez claimed that his ideology was based on Boliviar, history tells us that Simon Bolivar was a liberal and a supporter of free market capitalism. But there is one thing that Chavez and Bolivar have in common. Both leaders liberated their nation from foreign domination, Bolivar liberated it from Spain and Chavez from the USA. Also both leaders were authoritarian and had little respect for those who opposed him. Bolivar became president for life and Chavez used the state media against all who were critical of his ''21st century socialism''!
Bolivarianism is the ideology of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. This party was founded by all leftist parties and groups who supported Hugo Chavez. Only two left-wing parties wanted to remain independent. One of the two parties was the Communist Party of Venezuela who supported Chavez, but did not joined the new PSUV. The new party was to be the center of Chavez's revolution. But in reality the PSUV has no democratic structure. Critical revolutionary socialists soon found out, that the ruling elite of the party did not liked their critical attitude. Stalinist bureaucratic centralism was enforced by the party leaders and they used it against all members who were too critical. This made the right-wing stronger. The anti-Chavez opposition joined up in the Democratic Unity Round-table. This right-wing coalition unites all anti-Chavez parties, from the traditional liberal and conservative parties, to social democratic groups!
The first major defeat for Hugo Chavez was the constitutional referendum of 2007. During this referendum Hugo Chavez wanted to change the constitution again. This time the anti-Chavez opposition was able to rally students against the president. Many students were angry at Chavez for removing the broadcast licence of RCTV. This television station was one of the seven private owned media stations that opposed Hugo Chavez. During the 2002 right-wing coup, they supported the counter-revolutionaries. After Chavez returned to the power, RCTV became a major opposition network, their criticism of Hugo Chavez was harsh and not always justified!
Just before the constitutional referendum of 2007, RCTV was no longer allowed to broadcast. This enraged many students who saw this as a attack on the freedom of speech. With the help of many students and doubts in the Chavez camp about the constitutional referendum, the opposition was able to win the vote. 51% voted NO and Hugo Chavez was forced to accept that the Venezuelan people had voted against him!
But even with this defeat, Hugo Chavez remained very popular with the poor and the lower working class. Because even with all of his limitations, the Chavez government did reduced poverty by 70%. Sure poverty remains, but it has been dramatically reduced. The government used the profits from oil sale to boost social programs. In the past these profits went to the rich and never to the poor. Hugo Chavez was the first president who used state money for massive social programs who aided millions of poor workers!
The international friends of Chavez were not among the most genuine democratic. Dictators like Alexander Lukashenko and Muammar Gaddafi were close allies of Chavez. As the Libyan Revolution ended the regime of Gaddafi, Hugo Chavez remained loyal to his Libyan friend. When Gaddafi was killed by rebels, Chavez called him a ''great revolutionary''. Such stupidity only enforced the anti-Chavez opposition!
Yet even with his dictatorial friends and authoritarian rule style, Hugo Chave was able to defeat the right-wing opposition during the 2012 elections. This time his opponent was smarter. Henrique Capriles Radonski used pseudo-left-wing rhetoric against Chavez. He promised to keep the social programs alive and he claimed to be anti-corruption. Yet the Venezuelan people knew that Henrique Capriles was a member of the ruling class, his political party had the reputation of being a party for the rich. Chavez won the election, but the opposition won more votes then it had ever done!
Soon after the October elections, Hugo Chavez fell sick again. His cancer had returned and he went to Cuba for treatment. In 2013, he returned to Venezuela but he did not showed himself in public anymore. Soon the rumors came that he was very sick. The opposition used this to build up their forces for a new election. They did not have to wait long. On March 5 2013, the government of Venezuela announced the death of president Hugo Chavez, after a two year struggle with cancer!
Next day many Chavez supporters went on the streets to morn the death of their president. The Democratic Unity Round-table now prepares itselve for a huge battle with the now weaken Chavez party. The Great Patriotic Pole was founded by Hugo Chavez for the October 2012 election and will have to stand again for the presidential election somewhere in 2013!
The death of Hugo Chavez can mean the end of the Venezuelan Revolution. The right-wing has rebuild itself, the left-wing forces are weak and not based on a genuine revolutionary socialist program. They were all based on the charisma and personality of Hugo Chavez. Win out their leader, the left-wing of Venezuela is weak and can be defeated. That is why a revolutionary workers party is needed. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela has shown that it cannot be a workers party. They are a government party, a party of state bureaucrats and dogmatic Chavez supporters. But genuine workers have no place in the PSUV, the last six years have shown us that!
Hugo Chavez's last photo alive, with his daughters