Venezuela: counterrevolution raises its head - Heinz Dieterich and General Baduel - Part One

The Marxists have long argued that the only way forward for the Venezuelan revolution is to strike blows against the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, by expropriating the bankers, landlords and capitalists, etc. However, there are other voices saying rather different things. One of the most persistent of these voices is that of Heinz Dieterich, who has been waging a noisy campaign in favour of what he calls “Socialism of the XXI Century” - a strange kind of socialism indeed in that it differs very little from capitalism. In Venezuela the forces of the counterrevolution are engaged in an all-out offensive against Chavez and the Revolution. Right-wing students stage armed provocations on the campuses and the streets. The bourgeois media, nationally and internationally, are whipping up a campaign of hysteria against "tyranny" and "dictatorship". US imperialism, with the help of Juan Carlos and the Spanish bourgeoisie, is striving to isolate Venezuela and create an anti-revolutionary bloc in Latin America, based on Brazil and Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

As on previous occasions - the coup of 2002, the bosses' lockout, the recall referendum and the elections of 2005 and 2006, the reactionaries are using the slogan of supposed "defence of democracy" as a means of mobilizing the counterrevolutionary forces, creating a climate of fear and instability in order to prepare the ground for a right-wing coup.

In the present battle who is opposed to the reform of the Constitution? Fedecamaras, that is, the landlords, bankers and capitalists, the Episcopal Conference, representing the reactionary hierarchy of the Church, the right-wing media and imperialism. On the other side of the barricades are the workers and peasants, the poor and dispossessed, the revolutionary youth and the progressive intelligentsia: in other words, all the living forces of Venezuelan society.

Why does the ruling class hate the constitutional reform? They say it is because Chavez wishes to introduce a dictatorship, to be a President elected for life and so on. But the reformed constitution does not concede such powers or anything like them. It merely removes the restriction on standing for President more than twice. In Europe there is no such limitation. Sarkozy and Merkel can stand as often as they like. So can Gordon Brown. And in any case, the reformed constitution only allows Chavez to stand for election. It will be up to the people whether they elect him or not.

This should be the normal procedure for electing a head of state in a democracy. In Britain, which is supposed to be a democracy, we have a hereditary head of state who was never elected and never will be. The same is true in Spain where Juan Carlos, who permits himself the luxury of telling the elected President of Venezuela to "shut up", has never been elected by anyone but was appointed by the fascist dictator Franco. Who elected the Venezuelan Episcopate? Who elected the editors of the right-wing newspapers? Who elected the business leaders? Not the people of Venezuela, who voted massively for Hugo Chavez less than one year ago, and will undoubtedly vote for him again in the referendum in a few weeks time.

The reformed constitution is therefore not a recipe for dictatorship but contains many points in the interest of the masses. It contains the 36-hour working week, which is one reason why Fedecameras does not like it. Nor do the bosses like the clauses that make it easier to nationalize their banks, estates and factories. They do not like the idea of the formation of Bolivarian militias or workers' councils in the workplaces. They do not like the commitment to building a socialist economy in Venezuela. That is why they are fighting against the reform, for a "No" vote in December. That is why the working class must fight with even greater determination for a "Yes" vote.

A Constitution, even the most democratic constitution, is only a scrap of paper. It means nothing unless it is put into practice. And this depends on the class balance of forces: the willingness of the masses to fight. The end result of the Revolution will not be decided in lawyer's studies or parliamentary meetings, but on the streets, in the factories, in the villages and in the army barracks.

It goes without saying that the struggle for socialism will not end with the referendum. But the referendum is one more in a series of partial battles, the result of which can influence the struggles of the masses in a positive or negative sense.  As the masses push forward towards a socialist transformation, the counterrevolutionaries become ever more desperate and aggressive. The Revolution must meet the threat head on. The only way to disarm the counterrevolutionaries is by taking firm steps in the direction of completing the Revolution. The first step is to achieve a massive "Yes" vote in the referendum. This will deal a heavy blow against the counterrevolution, and open the way to further measures against the oligarchy.

There are those on the Left who refuse to see this as a struggle between the classes and who advocate abstention or even a "No" vote. This is a fatal position. It is necessary to understand that a victory for the "No" vote would be a victory for the counterrevolutionary opposition. It would dishearten the masses and encourage the opposition to intensify their counterrevolutionary agitation and conspiracies. If there are some people who consider themselves revolutionaries and even "Marxists" who do not understand this elementary fact, one can only feel sorry for them.

Baduel's declarations

The declarations of General Raúl Isaías Baduel on 5 November were a key part of this counterrevolutionary offensive. Until his retirement last July, Baduel was Defence Minister and apparently an ally of Hugo Chávez. Now Baduel has come out against the President. In a news conference, he described the President's proposed changes to the Constitution as "in effect a coup d'état" and a "non-democratic imposition that would put us into tragic retreat." This attack was clearly intended to cause a split in the ranks of the Bolivarian Movement and promote a "No" vote in the referendum on the constitutional changes scheduled for Dec. 2.

How can we prevent the Venezuelan Revolution from going down the path of Chile? The Marxists say: only by carrying the Revolution forward, by striking blows against the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, by expropriating the bankers, landlords and capitalists and making the Revolution irreversible. In order to do this it will be necessary to arm the workers and peasants to fight against the counterrevolutionary forces both inside and outside the country.

That is what we say. But there are other voices saying quite different things. One of the most persistent of these voices is that of Heinz Dieterich, a German professor living in Mexico, who in recent years has been waging a noisy campaign in favour of what he calls "Socialism of the XXI Century" -  a kind of socialism that differs very little from capitalism. Heinz Dieterich has been consistently opposed to expropriations and workers' control. He is against touching the property of the bankers, landowners and capitalists. And naturally he is opposed to touching the bourgeois state and the army.

It is not a coincidence that General Baduel wrote the Preface to Heinz Dieterich's book on "Socialism of the XXI Century" (Hugo Chávez y el Socialismo del SXXI) and helped to launch it in Venezuela. One can say that Heinz Dieterich cannot be held responsible for the views and actions of Baduel. But what was his reaction to the General's statements? Was it to distance himself from Baduel? Did he repudiate what Baduel was saying? Not at all.

On 8 November, Rebelion published an article by Heinz Dieterich entitled "The Chavez-Baduel Break: Stop the Collapse of the Popular Project". We republish it here in its entirety so that our readers can judge for themselves, and so that there can be no suggestion that we are misquoting the words of comrade Dieterich, which can be found at http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=58708

Let comrade Dieterich speak for himself. Here is the full text of the article:

1) What is at stake

The public announcement of former General in Chief and Venezuelan Defence Minister Raul Isaias Baduel, that he would vote against the constitutional reform proposed by President Hugo Chavez and endorsed by the National Assembly, has shaken the national order that seemed stable. At the same time, it has opened a phase of uncertainty which could have serious consequences for the Venezuelan popular project and the Bolivarian integration of Latin America. Understanding the objective causes, consequences and possible solutions to this conflict is thus essential to avoid a triumph of the oligarchy and imperialism.

Despite having had a personal relationship of appreciation for both characters for many years, I will not make a defence of either of the two protagonists, but a rational analysis, which seeks to contribute to a progressive solution of a grave situation. A key variable for understanding the conflict is the personality of both these military men, but this is not the time to introduce that variable in the analysis.

2) The causes of the conflict

The accusations that Baduel has sold out to the extreme right, that his anti-communism has got the better of him, or that he is a traitor, do not get to the heart of the problem. Ever since he was commander of the 42 Infantry Parachute Brigade, there have been many attempts to bribe him and several plots to assassinate him and he did not give in. He is a man who acts on conviction, not expediency, and that is why he confronted the coup of April 11, although the putschists tried to bribe him to work with them. And the fact that he did not participate on February 4 and November 27 has an explanation, which the leaders involved know and one day will be made public.

The assertion that he excluded himself from the Bolivarian project of the President, by positioning himself against reform on November 5, is the key to understanding the current situation. Baduel was unable to accept the government project because he was already excluded. He was marginalized, and the primary responsibility for this marginalization was that of the government.

3) The model of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

When he left the Defence Ministry in July 2007, the General stated that he was going to withdraw from public life for a time, to work on his farm and ponder his future as a public figure, like the consul Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus in Rome 2500 years ago. On Monday, November 5, this meditative phase ended with his dramatic eruption into the public debate on constitutional reform.

There are, however, two fundamental differences with the historical model: a) the General was not convened by the State forces to "save Rome," but volunteered motu proprio, on his own initiative, and b) he chose the time and place so as to ensure the maximum impact and surprise in order to launch his future political career. Part of the impact was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he had publicly supported the constitutional reform.

However, those observers are quite right who noted that Baduel had shown unmistakable signs of public concern at the evolution of the Bolivarian project that he saw: such as the scant will to fight against corruption, the inflationary development of the economy, the discretional use of the revenues from PdVSA and the lack of definition of the institutionality of Socialism of the XXI Century.

4) The offensive of the General seeks to occupy the political centre of the country

The field of political battle chosen by the General was constitutional reform and the time, the start of the official campaign for the Yes vote and the violent protests on the right. Raul Baduel is an extraordinary military man with strategic vision which explains the content and timing of his public statement. Contrary to what the official propaganda and sectarianism say, he is not a man of the extreme right, which by definition is extra-constitutional, but a man of the Law. His pronouncement in favour of the Constitution of 1999, against the excessive concentration of power in the executive branch, is the kind of speech that aims to occupy the political centre of the country.

Lacking a national organization and adequate funding to launch a national political campaign, the General transformed the growing controversy about the content and procedures for constitutional reform into the equivalent of what is in military terms the strategic reserve of a belligerent: a pre-organized force in stand-by for any offensive or defensive purposes. In the dramatic situation on Monday, after the demonstrations for and against the reform, a statement of the kind that he made, would give him an immediate global media forum, and within Venezuela, leadership of the political centre, which the country now does not have.

5) The break with the President and the decisive battle

The statement by the General does signify, of course, an open break with the President and the Bolivarian project, which the chief of state has been shaping from 2003 to date. The timing may seem brutal, because it launches a "war" with no quarter, in the style of Bolivar. The immediate withdrawal of the bodyguards of the General and his family by the Ministry of Defence, at the end of the press conference, is one example of this situation. But it is obvious that Baduel considered all the bridges were burnt and that, in going on the offensive, he decided that maximum force had to be used.

The intervention of the General amounts to a decisive battle, because if the President does not win the referendum, or if he does not win at least 60 percent of the votes, he would be forced to call new elections. That is, the call for a "no" vote is much more than a simple electoral issue or a debate on the constitutional prerogatives of the state and people: it is, for now, the decisive battle on the kind of country created by the President in the last four years from the proclamation of "Venezuelan socialism" to the fundamental changes that he is trying to introduce to the Constitution of 1999.

6)  Venezuela is entering a phase of uncertainty

There is no doubt that the intervention of the General has caused two important effects: a) has reinforced all the forces of the "No" vote, from the radicals to moderates; this is a historic responsibility of enormous dimensions that undoubtedly will weigh on the conscience of General until the end of his life, and b) has ruled out abstention as an option.

However, it is difficult to predict accurately the consequences. Raul Baduel has undoubtedly lost the great support that he had within the ranks of hard-line "Chavismo". We will have to see if the support he wins among the Centre and disappointed Bolivarians can compensate for this loss of political capital. On the part of the President, it remains to be seen if he can mobilize electoral forces which were previously undecided or inert in his favour.

Within this calculation it is necessary to remember that one of the characteristics of Venezuelan politics is that from 1999 onwards, the government has failed to reduce the opposition bloc, which has a hard core of around 35 to 40 per cent of the population, which is a fairly high platform for any government to jump in a crisis.

7) The way out: a strategic alliance between Chavez and Baduel

The danger of defeat, absolute or relative, of the "yes" vote, opens once again a chronically chaotic phase in Venezuela that in a few years could finish the government of Hugo Chavez. And if Chavez leaves the Miraflores Palace, the integration of South America could be halted. That is what is at stake.

To avoid this uncertain future and prevent the right and imperialism from taking power in Venezuela, it will be necessary for Chavez and Baduel to reach a negotiated settlement that is based on a strategic alliance between the country's political centre and Bolivarianism. It would be convenient to stop seeing the new constitution as a sacred cow and see it for what it is: a legal modus vivendi built on the correlation of forces in a given historic moment. Otherwise, we run the risk of paying the political price being paid by Evo Morales in Bolivia, as a result of the Constituent Assembly.

It is obvious that the new Constitution is not necessary to advance the anti-imperialist and popular Bolivarian process headed by the President at the national and international levels, nor is it necessary to progress towards Socialism of the XXI Century. And it is equally obvious that the current model has a number of structural weaknesses, which can cause crises in the coming year, particularly in the economy and the absence of dialectic in the organs leading the country.
 
In the light of what is at stake for the people of Venezuela and the peoples of Latin American, a strategic compact between the two forces is not only necessary to protect the process, but also, to go back to the original collective democratic spirit of the Samán del Guere. Anyone who thinks that this is impossible after the declaration of Raul Isaias Baduel is forgetting the conflict between Lieutenant Colonel Arias Cardenas of the MBR-200 and President Hugo Chavez.

In the year 2002 Arias Cardenas said literally during a live program on RCTV that Chavez was a "murderer", a "sick person", paranoid" and that the "leader of this band of criminals" was is in government. Years later he was appointed by the President as Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations and is now the head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the most powerful state in the country, Zulia..

Politics is the art of possible alliances and, in light of what is at stake, the inescapable historic responsibility of these two former comrades in arms, Hugo Chavez and Raul Isaias Baduel, is to resolve the current political (and future economic) crisis, so that the oligarchy and imperialism cannot win another strategic victory in the Patria Grande.

What does it mean?

What is the meaning of this? In the first place let us note that Dieterich does not criticize the substance of Baduel's speech, let alone repudiate it. On the contrary, he assumes the role of a Witness for the Defence. In the first part he states that Baduel "has shaken the national order that seemed stable". We do not know what country comrade Dieterich is talking about, but it cannot be Venezuela. The "national order" there is not stable at all and has not been stable for some time.

In Venezuela there is a fierce class struggle taking place. The masses are striving for a fundamental change in society, that is, they are striving for socialist revolution, while a handful of wealthy parasites, the oligarchy, is clinging to its wealth, power and privileges. In order to do this, the oligarchy is prepared to go to any length, mobilizing mobs on the streets to stir up violence and chaos, engaging in economic sabotage, organizing conspiracies to overthrow the democratically elected government, intriguing with foreign powers. If this is what comrade Dieterich calls "stability", we would like to know what instability is.

The frenzied hatred of Chávez and the desire to get rid of him at all costs is, at bottom, class hatred. The bourgeoisie and the imperialists know that behind the Bolivarian leader stand the Venezuelan masses: the workers, the peasants, the poor and oppressed, who have been aroused by the Bolivarian Revolution and are challenging private property and the "sacred rights" of management. The masses are learning from their experience and pushing the revolution forward in the direction of the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists. That is the real fear of the ruling class. That is the reason they are squealing about "tyranny" and "dictatorship".

The 1999 Constitution limits presidents to two six-year terms, and would end Chávez's presidency in 2012. That is the main aim of the opposition and the pro-bourgeois wing of the Bolivarian Movement: to get rid of Chávez as soon as possible. They calculate that without him, the movement would dissipate and fracture. What they really object to in the 69 amendments is that they include measures in favour of the masses and against the oligarchy. They include a six-hour working day and more expropriations. This implies a further movement in an anti-capitalist direction. This is intolerable, not only to the Venezuelan oligarchy and its friends in Washington but also to those sections of the Bolivarian Movement who are opposed to the socialist revolution.

The main danger to the Revolution, as we have said many times, is not so much the enemy without but the enemy within: the agents of the counterrevolution inside the Bolivarian Movement: the bourgeois Fifth Column: those "Bolivarians" who wear a red shirt but who secretly are opposed to socialism, who fear the masses and are flirting with the opposition. These people want to halt the revolution and arrive at a compromise with the counterrevolutionary opposition.

The new charter would allow Chávez to be re-elected and would cut down the influence of governors and mayors. The reason is that many of the latter cannot be trusted. Baduel is not an isolated case. Other supposed supporters of Chávez have also broken with him, including Ismael García of the Podemos party, which has now gone over to the opposition.

This should not surprise us. The polarization between the classes, between workers and capitalists, peasants and landowners, poor and rich, is being reflected in an inner differentiation within the Bolivarian Movement. A section of the leaders, alarmed at the rising revolutionary movement and utterly opposed to socialism, is moving rapidly to the right, towards the counterrevolution, while the masses and the Bolivarian rank and file are moving even more rapidly to the left, in the direction of socialist revolution.

The masses have rallied to Chávez, who they see as representing their interests. Yet again Chávez showed that he was able to mobilize supporters in a mass demonstration in favour of socialism and a new constitution. Yet again the streets of Caracas were flooded with workers and youth in red shirts. At the rally, the President correctly described student leaders as "rich bourgeois brats" and also attacked the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for its role. These sentiments were enthusiastically applauded by the demonstrators. The masses are in no mood to passively accept the aggression of the counterrevolution. This is the answer to all those who argue that the revolution is finished, that the masses have no will to fight, the balance of forces is unfavourable and we must compromise with the counterrevolutionary opposition.

Whose interests does Baduel stand for?

Lenin explained that the state, in the last analysis, is armed bodies of men. The army is the key question in the Venezuelan Revolution. While it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the rank and file soldiers support the Revolution, the situation in the top ranks is not so clear. Many officers are loyal to the President, but this is not true of everyone, as Baduel has shown. He was supposed to be a loyal Chavista. But Pinochet was also supposed to be a democrat and loyal supporter of Allende - until the 11th September 1973.

What effect might Baduel have within the armed forces? It is impossible to say. But it is known that there has been an intense internal discussion in the army. The army - any army - is only the mirror of society in general. How many Baduels remain in the upper echelons, waiting for their moment to act? The only way to deal with this problem and disarm the counterrevolutionary elements before they are able to turn their weapons against the Revolution is that the Revolution must penetrate the armed forces.
 
In his speech, Baduel chose his words carefully. He used the word "coup," as a deliberate provocation. It is the opposition, not the President, who are trying to prepare the ground for a coup. But, as Churchill used to say, attack is the best form of defence. Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, said of Baduel: "He is a traitor and the people here disown traitors". That is well said. This is a very serious matter. The intention is to provoke the maximum chaos and prepare the way for a military coup. José Vicente Rangel, the former vice president, warned over the weekend that he had intelligence that some in the political opposition were paving the way for a coup. We do not doubt it.

It is in the interest of the counterrevolution to cause the maximum chaos and instability. So whose interests is Baduel defending when he attacks Chavez? Dieterich continues:

"At the same time, it has opened a phase of uncertainty which could have serious consequences for the Venezuelan popular project and the Bolivarian integration of Latin America."

Indeed it could! And that was precisely Baduel's intention. He is openly playing the card of the counterrevolution. He is hoping to play the role of Bonaparte and the gravedigger of the Revolution. One has to be blind not to understand this. But as the proverb says, there is none so blind as they who do not want to see.

How Dieterich poses the question

Heinz Dieterich tells us that "understanding the objective causes, consequences and possible solutions to this conflict is thus essential to avoid a triumph of the oligarchy and imperialism". So what are these "objective causes"? Dieterich modestly informs us that he has "had a personal relationship of appreciation for both characters for many years". Heinz always likes to tell people that he is close to so-and-so and that he has met so-and-so. This is intended to give him a special authority and insight into affairs of state. He claims the right not only to tell us "what Chavez really means", but even to tell Chavez himself what he really means.

Unfortunately, he now finds himself in difficulties, since Baduel and Chavez are now in a head-on confrontation. How does Heinz get out of this little difficulty? Despite his friendship with both men, he "will not make a defence of either of the two protagonists, but a rational analysis, which seeks to contribute to a progressive solution of a grave situation."

The Sybill in ancient Greece made mysterious utterances that nobody can understand. The priests then interpreted these utterances for the ignorant public. We would require the services of such a priest to answer a very simple question: in the conflict between Chavez and Baduel, where does Heinz Dieterich stand?  He stands in the middle. He tries to act as an arbiter between them, and in the process he places himself above both - since the referee always decides in the case of a conflict and the referee's decision is final.

A trivial explanation

Pursuing his role as a Sybill-referee, Heinz informs us:

"A key variable for understanding the conflict is the personality of both these military men, but this is not the time to introduce that variable in the analysis."

This is classic Heinz Dieterich. It means: "I know these two men better than you. I know them better than anybody. In fact, I know them better than they know themselves. I also know that this is, at bottom, only a conflict of personalities. But I will not tell you how or why I know this, because then you would know as much as I do!"

Only a superficial mind seeks to interpret major political events in terms of personalities. This is a trivial approach to history and politics. It is on the level of sentimental novels and gossip journalism. It explains nothing at all. If Chavez and Baduel's personalities are different now, they were also different five or ten years ago. Why did the clash not occur then instead of now?

In reality, the conflict between Chavez and Baduel is at bottom a class question. Personal and psychological elements played at best a secondary role. These men do not act in a social vacuum. Baduel reflects the ideas, the interests and the psychology of the bourgeoisie, while Chavez is expressing the aspirations, interests and psychology of the mass of poor and oppressed people. That is why immediately Baduel was received as a hero and Saviour by the bourgeoisie and the media nationally and internationally, while Chavez received the support of the workers and peasants. Again, only a blind man cannot understand this.

Now we come to the causes of the conflict. Heinz informs us: 

"The accusations that Baduel has sold out to the extreme right, that his anti-communism has got the better of him, or that he is a traitor, do not get to the heart of the problem."

This is a very strange formulation indeed! Either Baduel has sold out to the right and is a traitor, or he has not and is not. What does comrade Dieterich think? We do not know. He does not say. All he says is that these accusations "do not get to the heart of the problem." What kind of statement is this? It is the kind of lawyer's circumlocution and sophistry that is not supposed to explain but only to distract ones' attention.  

Dieterich defends Baduel

Dieterich is very anxious to present his friend in the most favourable light. We are informed: "He [Baduel] is a man who acts on conviction, not expediency." These words amount to a defence of the General who is attacking the Revolution and supporting the counterrevolutionary opposition. Even if we accept what Dieterich says, that Baduel only acted from conviction, that would be no justification. A counterrevolutionary who acts on conviction, not expediency is more dangerous than an enemy who is guided by short-term personal considerations.

He reminds us that he "confronted the coup of April 11 [2002]" and informs us that the fact that he did not participate in Chavez's attempted coup in 1992 "has an explanation, which the leaders involved know and one day will be made public". Yet again he puts on the cloak of Sybill and hints that he (Heinz Dieterich) knows many secret things about which we are ignorant and about which he cannot speak. This is a very interesting argument. It is like a man who is asked to pay the rent at the end of the month saying: I know a secret formula that will enable me to win the lottery, but I cannot speak of it now. This may impress some people, but it will not convince the landlord or prevent him from throwing his insolvent lodger, together with his secret formulas, onto the street.

Why did Baduel oppose the reform on November 5? Baduel was unable to accept the government project because he was already excluded, Dieterich tells us: "He was marginalized, and the primary responsibility for this marginalization was that of the government". So there we have it! The fault for this situation is not Baduel's because the poor man was "already excluded". Whose fault was it, then? Why, the government and the President, of course! What does this signify? In the present conflict, which, as we have already explained, is a class conflict, a clash between the forces of revolution and counterrevolution, Dieterich stands with the latter against the former. And no amount of sophistry and ambiguity can conceal this fact.

The line of argument used by Dieterich here is absolutely typical: it is lawyer's sophistry. Let us draw an analogy that will make this clear. A man is accused of burning down his neighbour's house with everyone inside it. He goes to trial and his defence lawyer is a friend who has known him for many years. Does his friend plead not guilty? No, he cannot do this, because the house was burnt down in daylight and everybody saw who did it. The case being hopeless, the lawyer resorts to trickery to save his friend. What arguments does he use? He does not deny the accusation (because he cannot) but argues that the accusation "does not get to the heart of the problem."

Having thus begun to confuse the jury and draw its attention away from the central accusation, he then continues to create a smoke screen of irrelevant matters:

1)    I have known the accused for many years and he is a very nice man.
2)    The accused only acts out of conviction. He only burned the house out of conviction. In fact, he always burns down houses out of conviction.
3)    The house was very ugly and deserved to be burnt anyway.
4)    The neighbours stopped inviting him to dinner and this made him feel marginalized. Therefore, the neighbours were responsible for his actions and deserved to be burned.

When this lawyer's rhetoric is stripped of its embellishment, its dishonesty is clear to any normally intelligent person. The lawyer does not deny that his client is guilty as charged. But he defends him as a person and tries to present his criminal actions in the best possible light. He then proceeds to justify the crime itself and to make the victims of the crime appear the aggressors and the criminal look like the real victim. If the lawyer is sufficiently skilful, he can sometimes succeed in persuading a jury to release the criminal, who then immediately proceeds to burn down more houses.

A "sincere" counterrevolutionary

Heinz Dieterich, as we have seen, does not deny that Baduel has gone over to the counterrevolutionary opposition. He cannot deny this because everyone in Venezuela knows that it is true. He therefore attempts to justify his actions, presenting his counterrevolutionary speech as the action of a true democrat and patriot. He says he acts only out of conviction, not from bribery or other base motives.

Since we have not been present at the meetings between the General and the opposition and have no access to his bank account, we have no means of knowing whether this is true or false. However, let us note that Dieterich contradicts himself when he writes: "Part of the impact [of Baduel's statement] was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he had publicly supported the constitutional reform."(my emphasis, AW) How does a "man of conviction" change his convictions about the Constitution in the space of 18 days?  Evidently, the General's convictions resemble those of the politician who said: "All right, if you don't like my principles I'll change them!"

Even if we accept that he has acted only out of conviction, this argument counts for nothing. Many of the greatest villains in history have acted out of conviction. The mad emperor Nero no doubt acted out of conviction when he burned Rome and blamed the Christians. Adolf Hitler always acted on the basis of very deep convictions - convictions of racial superiority and fascism. Both Tony Blair and George Bush are said to be motivated by deep convictions - imperialist convictions that they have a god-given right to rule the world. To justify his support for the criminal invasion of Iraq Blair told the British people: "I did what I did because I believed sincerely it was right". Does this make the crimes of these men any less atrocious - because they were sincere and "acted from conviction"?

Many of the Venezuelan opposition are deeply convinced that Chavez is a dangerous revolutionary, a threat to the existing social order who must be overthrown and even killed to save the Fatherland. Oh yes, they believe this quite sincerely. And from their class point of view they are correct. They are acting from conviction. The counterrevolutionary opposition sincerely defends the standpoint of the landlords, bankers and capitalists. Baduel sincerely defends the counterrevolutionary opposition. And Dieterich sincerely (we assume) defends Baduel. However, we are not interested in whether they are sincere or not, but what interests they defend.

The only way we can judge the actions of Baduel is not from the standpoint of personal sincerity but from a class point of view. For our part, we sincerely defend the standpoint of socialism and the working class. We defend President Chavez against the attacks of the counterrevolution. Not to do so in this situation would be a betrayal. And it is also the only way we can interpret the actions of those who use lawyer's sophistry to defend him. If an arsonist is allowed to escape justice because of the arguments of clever lawyers, he will be free to burn houses. If a counterrevolutionary is tolerated, he will engage in counterrevolutionary conspiracies that threaten the lives of many more people than a single arsonist.

In our opinion the Bolivarian Revolution has already been far too lenient with the counterrevolutionaries. How many of the golpistas of April 2002 are in prison? Until recently, not one, as far as we know. This is a serious mistake and the Revolution will pay a heavy price for such leniency.


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