The 10 people Chávez meets in heaven

The 10 people Chávez meets in heaven March 29, 2013

A story I have yet to see in the Anglo-American press is the apotheosis of Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan strongman died on 5 March 2013 after fifteen years in office leaving Venezuela with 25 per cent inflation,  public debt at 70 percent of GDP, a shortage of basic consumer goods, a crumbling electrical grid with frequent power outages, widespread crime and a serious contraction of the oil industry — the source of 95 per cent of the country’s exports. Since 1998 U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude have fallen by half.

The press has so far focused on the economy, foreign affairs and the political campaign to elect a new president. The better stories have been asking whether Chavismo can survive without Chávez  — if Marxism can survive without Marx, Leninism without Lenin, and Peronism without Peron then Chavismo may be able to survive without Chávez. His handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, who has  the backing of the army, the poor and the country’s petrodollars may retain power. Or will Chavismo go the way of Stalinism, Maoism or Hitlerism?

The regime appears to be taking as few chances as possible — and just in time for Good Friday —  ViVe, the cultural TV channel owned by the Venezuelan government has broadcast a children’s animated short film showing  Hugo Chávez in heaven.

The film shows the ten people Chávez meets as he enters paradise: Indian leader Gaicauipuro, Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino, Chile’s Salvador Allende, Venezuela’s negro primero Pedro Camejo; Argentina’s Evita Peron, the “people’s singer” Ali Primera, Che Guevara, Chavez’s grandmother Rosa Ines, Ezequiel Zamora, and Simón Bolívar.

The title of this film: “Hasta siempre, Comandante”, has meaning beyond a farewell to El Comandante (Chávez’s popular name with the masses.) It was also the headline of the article in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, announcing Chávez’s death — and (coincidentally?) is the title of a leftist ballad celebrating the life of Che Guevara. Here is a link to a version ascribed to Joan Baez, whose closing stanzas proclaim:

Your revolutionary love
leads you to a new undertaking
where they are awaiting the firmness
of your liberating arm

We will carry on
as we did along with you
and with Fidel we say to you:
Until Always, Commandante!

The Russians did this sort of thing best — the idolatry of departed secular saints.  The cry:

Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!

closes Vladimir Mayakovsky’s 1924 poem “Vladimir Ilych Lenin“.  The greatest of Mayakovsky’s works and the apex of the socialist realist style of poetry that flowered in Russia in the decade after the Revolution “VI Lenin” tells the story of the triumph of the proletarian revolution through the vehicle of the working class, which through toil and strife, guided by the laws of social development, revealed by its ideological genius Karl Marx, produces the “twin of Mother History” — the Bolshevik Party and its leader, VI Lenin.

The party for Mayakovsky is the symbol of the strength and wisdom of the working classes and is what has trained and mobilized the masses, and lead them out of their bondage. And over all this:

the compass of Leninist thought,
the guiding hand of Lenin.

Lenin’s life did not end with his death as the people and the party live on.

And even the death of Ilyich
became a great communist organizer

Lenin will live in the hearts of the proletariat and will remain the rallying point for world revolution.

Proletarians, form ranks for the last battle!
Straighten your backs,
unbend your knees!
Proletarian army, close ranks!
Long live the joyous revolution, soon to come!
This is the greatest
of all great fights
that history has known.

Are we seeing the modest beginnings of Chávez worship? While Che posters and berets have lost their political meanings in college dorms and are mere fashion accessories in America — the glorification of a “Dear Leader” (living or dead) is central to the faith systems of peoples as far a part as Pyongyang and Caracas. Is it a substitute for God? Are we looking at worship? Or in this case is it merely of  a silly aesthetically unpleasing government sponsored political advert? What is going on here?

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5 responses to “The 10 people Chávez meets in heaven”

  1. I admit to some surprise at this post. From the title I was expecting a review of a late night comedy sketch or perhaps a take on an Onion article. But to be a bit more serious, I think what is going on is a form of hero worship. In the USA we worship actors, musicians and sports figures. In other places, politicians are worshiped. But I think the impulse is the same. It’s almost as if the worship that should go toward God gets misdirected toward men and women. And, always, or almost always, the media never asks the question “What is going on here?”

  2. “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!”

    Of course, it is pure coincidence to find any resemblance to the liturgical “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.”

  3. “Is it a substitute for God? Are we looking at worship? Or in this case is it merely of a silly aesthetically unpleasing government sponsored political advert? What is going on here?”

    For a moment, I wondered if you were talking about this image or maybe this one (though I acknowledge they’re not official or sponsored by government and in the case of the second one, intended to stir up comment and debate, if not an outright row).

    Though seriously, when you can have the likes of the following printed as an example of what some allegedly sane and grounded people think, it’s not really fair to hold the Venezuelans up to ridicule or rebuke:

    “Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.”

    Just label me one of the “coweringly religious”, not the “deeply spiritual”, then because the only politician ever accorded even a smidgeon of that kind of reverence in my family was Dev and even my granny who venerated the man would have blushed to call him a secular messiah 🙂