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(en) IAS Perspectives on Anarchist Theory Vol. 7, No. 2 - To Think that Power Will Dissolve by Itself is an Absurdity: Interview with Alfredo Vallota by El Libertario

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 28 Nov 2003 11:51:53 +0100 (CET)

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Populist movements have always been a problem for Latin American
anarchists. On the one hand, they seem to share goals that are dear to
anarchists: they build mass, working class mobilizations, often
articulate a strong anti-imperialist message, and celebrate the virtues
of popular culture. On the other hand, they are always centered around
charismatic political leaders and are fundamentally state-centered,
hierarchical projects. Brazilian, Argentine, and Mexican anarchists
struggled to build an alternative to the populist movements in their
respective countries before World War Two with varying degrees of

This problem has returned for Venezuelan anarchists in the form of
Hugo Chavez's “Bolivian revolution” and comrades from the
magazine El Libertario have initiated a rich dialogue on the subject. 1
Here we present excerpts from an interview they conducted with
Alfredo Vallota, a professor of philosophy and author of the book,
Bitácora de la utopía: Anarquismo para el siglo XXI ( Utopia's
Binnacle: Anarchism for the 21 st Century ).
Chuck Morse

Why was the attempted coup d'etat led by Chavez on February 4 th,
1992, a retreat? There are people that suggest that it was a transition
towards something else…

Of course, but transitions can be backwards. In this moment, the
political leadership had disconnected from the interests of the base.
The structures of power were transformed into an oligarchy that didn't
see anything but its immediate interests. The political structure had
ruptured, something that did not happen the first years of the project
of 1958. 2 But, to replace an oligarchy with another one, a militarist
oligarchy, is a backwards transition. It does not contain any
mechanism for resolving the problems of the base, the disconnection
of the leading economic and political oligarchy from the interests of
the Venezuelan population. For this reason, I consider it a step back,
politically speaking. The political structure should have established a
connection with the population through the political parties, but it did
not do so, and a group of soldiers had the resources to do it.
Is it possible to find parallels with what occurred on the 4 th of
February with other historical moments in other latitudes or it is a
uniquely Venezuelan event?

It has its own particularities. If one is referring to the military coups
that took place in Chile or Argentina, these had an ideological content
and Chavez's coup has none. Chavez's coup is simply a coup for the
sake of power, taking advantage of circumstances, but it does not
have an ideological structure. It has been in power for almost 5 years:
could someone tell me what are the five fundamental points of the
Bolivian revolution? There aren't any.
Some analysts associate Chavez with the historic examples of
Fascism and [Argentina's populist tendency of] Peronism. Do links

There are links. Chavez's [movement] has the same connotations as
Peronism. That is to say, it never had an ideology. In Peronism, there
was a revolutionary left, a unified right, the industrialists of national
capital, the capitalists of import and export, the armed forces, and
left-wing Peronist guerillas. Everything fit within Peronism, [but] it
was just a name and a person. The proof is that [former Argentina
President] Menem was a Peronist, and he was and is the perfect
neo-liberal. López Rea, who founded the equivalent of the Bolivian
circles, with the Triple A was a Peronist also. [Peron's third wife and
one-time Argentine President] Isabel was a Peronist. In this sense,
Chavezism is similar to Peronism. 3 With Fascism, certain policies
can be identified, except that fascism has a more defined ideological
force than Chavez possesses.
If we put the opposition (to Chavez) under the magnifying class, do
you see novel elements? Is it a socio-political movement or the
re-composition of the old leadership trying to restore itself to power?

The positive thing that I see is that the people have participated. The
people participate in both sides. Everyone has been obliged to take
part. Not in the best manner possible, because it would have been
much more useful to participate in the constructive, not destructive
work. That is the defect. But the participation, abandoning an
absolutely flaccid and disdainful situation for a public concern, for a
political concern, and limiting itself to the vote every five years
without greater participation… the people see that this has brought
them to disaster. The problem is that this participation has been
carried out in a habitual or customary way, a way that tries to
structure itself in the traditional manner: that is to say, organizing
itself to follow leaders, searching for someone to represent them.
What things can be rescued with Chavezism?

As in the other faction, there has been a positive participation of the
base. However, the official movement's difficulty is precisely that it
requires the support of the base, but it is an authoritarian project. So,
all the organizational models that are stimulated and that can
orchestrated have a very low limit: they are immediately pressured,
co-opted, limited, and disciplined.
A fundament of the anarchist movement is to regard power as a social
relationship as well as an institution. What is Chavez's relation with
the distinct factors of power? Are there antagonisms or relations?

Anarchism is one of the few currents that is raising ideological
discussion today. There is not much outside of this, because there are
not many philosophical fundaments for raising such discussions:
conceptions of man, of society, of technology, and also the aspirations
of the old ideologies. Thus, the absence of this discussion generates a
void… This void is filled by the struggle for power in whatever forms.

The Chavist movement is immersed in an anachronistic ideology
because it still personalizes power, but power does not have subjects
whom it owns. That is to say, today we personalize the policies being
carried out by the United States, but Bush is not the owner of this
power. Three years ago, there was Clinton and now who is it?
Nobody.... One of the problems that Chavez has had is that this
personalization of power cannot be implemented because the forces of
power are larger than he is.
What can anarchism propose as a contemporary alternative?

We can understand power as an historical error in the progress of
humanity. Anthropology has shown that for thousands of years
humans lived without power. Power isn't necessary. For thousands of
years humanity lived with an economy of reciprocity.... Power is the
possibility that an individual or group influences the decisions, the
actions, in the spaces and environments, of the other. All power leads
to an oligarchy because power does not distribute itself, it does not
soften. Power is avaricious, it condenses. What is there to do?
Dissolve power. Anarchism's great project is to dissolve the
asymmetry of power. How? There are thousands of alternatives and
there is not only one solution. To advance “one” solution would
be a doctrine of power, a manifestation of power.
In the context of Latin America, Venezuela has a very brief anarchist
tradition. What is its significance for local social movements?

It is true that it does not have a history as an organized movement.
There are countries in Latin American that have much more historical
force: Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru have
anarchist movements that have existed for a hundred years.... But, the
past is not always the future, and the Venezuelan anarchist movement
now has a presence in the Latin American anarchist movement, and it
also has a presence in the international anarchist movement.
Interestingly, there are various aspects in the Venezuelan anarchist
movement. Inherited, like always in traditional anarchism, is the desire
to inform the people about their conflicts, their solutions, their
alternatives, their possibilities, and actions. In this moment I believe
that anarchist publications in Venezuela are the only ones with a open
and explicit ideological content that circulate around here. Without a
doubt, I would say that anarchism is a contemporary ideological
alternative, not of the majority, but also not ignored. And the proof is
that the Chavezist movement has put out pamphlets and notes
warning its militants of the risks of anarchism.

Translation from Spanish by Chuck Morse.


1. This interview was published in on April 14 th , 2003 in El
Libertario Annual subscriptions (6 issues) are $5 US or $11 US (slow
and fast mail, respectively) for readers outside of Venezuela. Send
subscriptions to E. Tesoro, apartado postal 6303, Carmelitas,
Caracas, Venezuela.
2. Here Vallota refers to the 1958 election of president Betancourt.
3. The Bolivian Circles are popular groups organized to support the
Chavez government.

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